Charismatic Ramifications on the “Long Ending” of Mark’s Gospel

Most modern Bible translations include a note expressing serious doubt about the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20.  Individuals who do accept these final verses as part of Mark’s Gospel, however, are committed to an extreme view of the signs listed in verses 17 and 18, to include the explicit ability to drink poison with no ill effects.  If the Greek text in this “long ending” is taken seriously, understood, and translated in proper context, then all five signs are for all those who believe – excepting those actively preaching the Gospel message – at the point of initial conversion and continuing on thereafter.  That is, upon hearing and believing in the Gospel message, newly regenerate believers, without exception, will exhibit all the signs listed in Mark 16:17-18, as accompaniment to the Gospel.  Moreover, these five should be evident among all believers, past, present and yet future, upon initial acceptance of the Gospel and thereafter – at the least, whenever the Gospel is being actively preached.

The Long and the Short of It

For quite some time, it has been the scholarly consensus that the “long ending” of the Gospel of Mark, i.e., the last 12 verses (16:9-20), is not original to the Gospel, even though there are many manuscripts that include this text.1  While there are those who assert that the long ending is indeed original, they are well within the minority among NT scholars and textual critics.  The vocabulary and style of the Greek in the long ending is substantially different than the remainder of Mark’s Gospel.2  In addition, the associated manuscript evidence points rather decisively to the inauthenticity of these verses.3

There is even a so-called “short ending” in one extant Old Latin manuscript.  This short ending consists of a small amount of text following verse 8, about the equivalent of one long Biblical verse or two shorter ones.  While this is found as the ending to Mark’s Gospel in only one manuscript, there is yet another variation in which the long ending is appended to the short ending.4  All three – the predominant long ending, the lone short ending, and the combination of short ending followed by long ending – are almost universally rejected, and identified as spurious.

Some are of the opinion that the Gospel of Mark simply concludes at verse 8.  However, in view of the fact that verse 8 ends rather abruptly with frightened women at the tomb, and, secondarily, that the very last word is a conjunction (the word γάρ, transliterated gar, meaning for, since, or because), others believe the original ending has been lost, or that the Gospel writer just did not finish the work for some unknown reason.5  These may well be factors that influenced the writer of the long ending (assumed to be one lone author by the internal consistency of the text).

Excluding the long ending from Scripture necessarily negates any need to discuss cessationism (the belief that the ‘sign gifts’ have ceased with the Apostolic era and the closing of the Biblical canon) or continuationism (the belief that all the spiritual gifts continue to this day) by appealing to these verses.  Dr. Rodney J. Decker, Th.D., has recently written a paper on this subject, titled Mark and Miracle (Mark 16:17-18), with an emphasis on what the longer ending means in its own context and how it relates to the rest of the New Testament, and posted it on his blog.  This particular work of Decker (see hyperlink at title above, pdf here) will be relied on for portions of the remainder of this article; general references and specific quotes from it will be followed by applicable page number in brackets, e.g.: {p 3}.

Interpreting the Text of the Long Ending

Decker notes that, in academic settings, those who argue for continuationism by and large do not do so by appealing to the Markan long ending.  On the other hand, it is used quite frequently as a basis for argumentation “in non-academic discussions and among poorly trained advocates.  That is perhaps not surprising since even in cessationist circles the authenticity of the Long Ending is commonly assumed since it is in the KJV without note or comment” {p 2, n 11}.  I’ll add that it seems many readers of modern Bible versions pay little mind to the notes, further contributing to ignorance about the legitimacy of the long ending.6  Philip Comfort provides a blanket caution against the lay or academic use of these verses:

…Christians need to be warned against using this text for Christian doctrine because it is not on the same par as verifiable New Testament Scripture.  Nothing in it should be used to establish Christian doctrine or practice.  Unfortunately, certain churches have used Mark 16:16 to affirm dogmatically that one must believe and be baptized to be saved, and other churches have used Mark 16:18 to promote the practice of snake-handling…The writer of the longer ending also emphasized what we would call charismatic experiences – speaking in tongues, performing healings, protection from snakes and poison.  Although the book of Acts affirms these experiences for certain believers, they are not necessarily the norm for all.7

Bill Johnson, Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, is just one example (and there are many others within the so-called New Apostolic Reformation, aka NAR) of a hyper-charismatic (my term for those who go well beyond more conservative Pentecostal/charismatic theology and practice) who frequently cites Mark 16:15 and Mark 16:20 as base texts for the Great Commission, while selectively using only portions of verses 17-18 (healing the sick, casting out demons, and speaking in new tongues, yet omitting snake handling and drinking poison) for his continuationist stance.8  As but one example, here’s a selection in which Johnson specifically cites Mark 16:20 in the footnote reference to this passage:

…While healing is seldom the subject we teach on, it is one of the most common results.  As we proclaim the message of the Kingdom of God, people get well.  The Father seems to say Amen! to His own message by confirming the word with power….9

In reading Johnson’s quote, observe that the claim is that “people get well” as a result of the proclamation of “the message of the Kingdom of God”.  This passive “people get well” stands in stark contrast to the long ending’s explicitly active “they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover”.  In other words, according to verse 18, those who believe will actively lay on hands, resulting in the sick recovering; the sick don’t just “get well”.  We could give Johnson the benefit of the doubt and just assume he was imprecise with his wording, but what of the other signs that should accompany the message according to the context of the long ending of Mark?:

15 And He said to them [the Eleven], “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow [accompany] those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them [the Eleven], He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs [by those who believe]. Amen. [Mark 16:15-20, NKJV (emphasis and explanatory notes in brackets added)]

The text is book-ended with the preaching of the Gospel (vv 15, 20) by the Eleven (vv 14, 15, 19), but note that signs (σημεῖα, sēmeia) will follow/accompany those who believe (vv 16, 17), to exclude those preaching (the Eleven) {pp 3-5}.  The context specifies that it is regenerate believers – those receiving the preaching of the Gospel (by the Eleven; v 15) and reaching a saving faith (v 16) – who will cast out demons, speak with new languages, pick up snakes, etc.  Following are the five signs that will be exhibited by these believers:

  • Performing exorcisms
  • Speaking in new languages
  • Picking up snakes (presumably without harm)
  • Drinking poison without harm
  • Healing the sick by the laying on of hands

Note that, by the context, the snakes are not specifically identified as venomous (or not), and it’s not specified if those picking up the snakes will remain unharmed; it merely states “they will take up serpents” (some manuscripts add “with their hands”).  Some may appeal to the next point – “if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them” – but these two are not connected grammatically {p 3}.  Also, since all five, as Decker observes, “are listed in parallel with no indication otherwise, it would be precarious to suggest that one (or more) is to be taken metaphorically if the others are not” {pp 3-4, 4 n 15}.  By the context, the statement attributed to Jesus (vv 15-18), as well as the narration in verse 20 (“…the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.”) is clearly meant in a literal sense; therefore, all five should be taken literally.

The text explicitly states that all five signs above will accompany the collective of those who believe {p 8}, as a sign of the Gospel, “whenever they believe” {p 4}.  Moreover, according to Decker, as indicated by the Greek grammar, each believer should perform all five {pp 4, 4 n 19-20}.  Further, this implies that each time the Eleven preached the Gospel there would always be demon-possessed individuals, snakes, poisonous drink, and persons afflicted with ailments in their midst.

Yet, by the context, this is not limited to the Apostolic era, the time period when the Eleven were still living {p 5}.  Since the function of these signs is in conjunction with the preaching of the Gospel – and, of course, the Great Commission is an ongoing command to all Christians (cf. Matthew 28:18-20) – these signs must continue as well {pp 4-5}.  Therefore, those who accept the long ending as part of the canonical Gospel of Mark are committed to the belief that all five signs above are applicable to every single believer, at the point of their conversion and forward.  The only limitation is imposed on those believers who are actively preaching the Gospel.  In other words, by the context provided by the author of the long ending, those who believe will perform the five signs above, which necessarily include all the regenerate – past, present, and yet future – except when they themselves are in the act of preaching the Gospel message {pp 4-5}.

It could be construed that one of the implicit points made by the author of the long ending regarding “confirming the word through the accompanying signs” is that others in the audience who may have been unpersuaded by the Gospel message itself may become convinced by the attendant display of signs.  In fact, there are three pieces of extra-Biblical, apocryphal literature depicting the Apostle John drinking poison for the express purpose of converting others.  These are: Virtutes Iohannis (Miracles of John, circa 5th or 6th century AD), Passio Iohannis (Passion of John, ca. late 6th c.) {p 10},10 and Acts of John in Rome (ca. 4th to 6th c.11), with the latter finding its writer portraying John as explicitly quoting the words of Mark 16:18b (“and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them”) {p. 10}.   With this in mind, would Bill Johnson, or any of the other self-appointed “Apostles” of the New Apostolic Reformation (or any follower of the NAR) who affirm Mark 16:9-20, like to drink from the poisoned cup, toward this same goal?

It seems one could understand this passage a bit more narrowly, interpreting “confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (v 20) as a limitation on those who believe.  That is, these signs will only accompany those who believe during the proclamation of the Gospel, thereby limiting the ‘shelf-life’ of these signs.  In other words, these five signs would be manifested each time the Gospel message is preached until Jesus Christ returns, but only for the duration of the preaching at each particular place and time.12

But note that even this more narrow view would only limit the time at which these signs are made manifest and not their actual expression.  With this limitation in mind, we’ll pose the question above a bit differently: With another actively preaching “the message of the Kingdom of God”, would Bill Johnson, or any of the other self-appointed “Apostles” of the New Apostolic Reformation (or any disciple of the NAR) who affirm Mark 16:9-20, like to drink from the poisoned chalice in order to win others to Christ?

Given his interpretation of Jesus’ promise in John 14:12, Johnson may even desire to identify such acts of ‘poison-bibbing’ {p 10} as manifest evidence of “greater works”, since it is not recorded in Scripture that Jesus Himself drank poison without harm:

Jesus’ prophecy of us doing greater works than He did has stirred the Church to look for some abstract meaning to this very simple statement…And, the works He referred to are signs and wonders.  It will not be a disservice to Him to have a generation obey Him, and go beyond His own high-water mark.  He showed us what one person could do who has the Spirit without measure.  What could millions do?  That was His point, and it became His prophecy.

This verse is often explained away by saying it refers to quantity of works, not quality…But that waters down the intent of His statement.  The word greater is mizon [sic] in the Greek…It is always used to describe “quality,” not quantity.13

But, I’m unpersuaded that even such a charismatic display of imbibing venomous drink without harm would be greater than Jesus’ dying on the Cross for the sins of the world and subsequently raising Himself from the dead (John 2:19-22, 10:17-18).

Nonetheless, as per the context provided by the author of the long ending, poison-bibbing is a requirement of all believers – at least those who accept Mark 16:9-20 as part of sacred Scripture.

Conclusion

Those who consider the long ending of Mark must understand that it’s an all or nothing proposition.  If one is inclined to accept it as authentic, then, in all intellectual honesty, one is forced to conform to a radical form of continuationism – one that must accept that all five signs enumerated in verses 17 and 18, without exception, will be exhibited by those who believe.  To explicitly or implicitly reject any of these five will not do.  On the other hand, to agree with the scholarly consensus that the long ending is not original to the Gospel of Mark means that no portion of it can be referenced for doctrine or practice.

 

Some facts and thoughts about the author of the above referenced article (see especially last paragraph):

Dr. Rodney J. Decker is on faculty at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.  He is the author of Temporal Deixis of the Greek Verb in the Gospel of Mark with Reference to Verbal Aspect (New York: Peter Lang, 2001) and Koine Greek Reader: Selections from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), as well as other publications, with more material under contract, including his contribution to the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament series (The Gospel of Mark).

I enjoy reading and being challenged by his works, most of which are a bit beyond my current level, some quite so.  However, it’s obvious he cares about his students’ learning, as he has even taken the time to place additional data, list errata, and translate the German and French text from the Peter Lang book mentioned above (this particular book series requires that all non-English language remain untranslated), onto his own website.  Here’s a portion of his remarks:

…Since, however, I have some hopes that students may find the work helpful, and even that some may be curious as to the content of those [untranslated] quotations (an idealistic notion, I suspect, but one which I hope to nurture for a bit longer!), I have thought it appropriate to provide a translation of many of those quotations here.

In addition, Decker has taken one of Dr. Stanley Porter’s difficult works and made it more comprehendible, providing a tremendous service to those wishing to become more conversant with Porter’s position on verbal aspect.  This is available as an online pdf (the title itself references Porter’s work): “The Poor Man’s Porter”: A condensation and summarization of Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood by Stanley E. Porter (New York: Peter Lang, 1993).

While he’s very serious about his work, he occasionally injects a bit of lightheartedness in his material and on his blog (and presumably in the classroom).  Decker is currently battling stage 4 cancer.  He has recently begun chemotherapy.  He and his wife could use our prayers.

 

Endnotes:

     1 This merely illustrates that subsequent copyists faithfully reproduced (more or less) this long ending once it was introduced into the Gospel of Mark, though many manuscripts have markings suggesting its inauthenticity.
     2 Here I’m referring to what is known as the internal evidence of NT textual criticism: assessing authorial and scribal peculiarities such as style (vocabulary, grammar) and doctrine.
     3 This sentence refers primarily to what is termed external evidence in NT textual criticism: assessing all known variants of a given section of Scripture by focusing on such factors as age, similar readings among manuscripts, and geographic distribution, and then comparing with each other to determine which verbiage is likely original.
     4 The following English translation of the “short ending” is taken from Roger L. Omanson, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft (German Bible Society), 2006), p 104.  Note that the first sentence is a continuation of 16:8, for the obvious purpose of not leaving the verse ending with the women fearful: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told.  And after these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.  Amen.  Manuscripts which append the “long ending” to the “short ending” omit the final “Amen” of the “short ending” (Omanson, p 104).
     5 For more on the textual evidence consult Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1994); Roger L. Omanson’s adaptation of Metzger noted above; Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2008); Craig A. Evans, Word Biblical Commentary: Mark 8:27 – 16:20 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001); Joel Marcus, The Anchor Yale Bible: Mark 8 – 16 (New Haven: Yale, 2009), etc.
     6 This is based on my own admittedly very limited experience.
     7 Comfort, p 161.
     8 This is evident throughout his books, sermons and other materials.  Of the many works I’ve studied/surveyed, none promote snake handling or the drinking of poison.
     9 Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles, (Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 2003 (first edition)), p 89; emphasis in original.   I’m giving Johnson the benefit of the doubt that he’s speaking of the true Gospel, and not the differentiated “Gospel of the Kingdom” of some New Order of the Latter Rain and/or New Apostolic Reformation teachers and adherents, though the context strongly implies the latter, and he specifically uses the latter term in many places throughout the book.  Probably the best place to find the delineation of the two terms is found in the glossary of Earl Paulk’s Ultimate Kingdom (Atlanta: K Dimension, 1984, p 335), in which “Gospel” is defined as [t]he good news of God’s redemption to man. [Luke 4:18, 9:6; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 6:15]; whereas, “Gospel of the Kingdom” is defined [t]he good news principles of daily life taught by Jesus that the Church must demonstrate as a witness to the world in order to return the rule of the earth to God.  [Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14] – in other words: Dominionism.  Also, one must keep in mind that Johnson equates such signs as part of the “greater works” in John 14:12.  See below.
     10 Here Decker quotes from (as he cites quite a bit in his paper) James Kelhoffer (Miracle and Mission: The Authentication of Missionaries and Their Message in the Longer Ending of Mark, WUNT 2.112, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000, p 450); Decker notes (p  10 n 42) that dates of 3rd to 6th century have been proposed for these two works.  Claudio Moreschini and Enrico Norelli, (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, A Literary History, Volume Two: From the Council of Nicea to the Beginning of the Medieval Period, Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005; English transl. Matthew J. O’Connell), claim “perhaps” 5th or 6th c. for Passion of John (“by Pseudo-Melito”) and “end of 6th c.” for Miracles of John (“included in the collection of Pseudo-Abdias”) [pp 221-222].  Both of these works apparently draw from the 3rd c. apocryphal work Acts of John, as Knut Schäferdiek (“The Acts of John”) in Wilhelm Schneemelcher (transl. R. McL. Wilson New Testament Apocrypha: Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1990, English transl. James Clarke & Co. Ltd, Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991) notes, specifying that the Passio Iohannis “has taken up several narratives from the Acts of John in a considerably revised form” [p 154, cf. p 155].  Schäferdiek also largely agrees with Moreschini/Norelli regarding dates for Passion “which scarcely came into being before the middle of the 5th century” [p 154] and Miracles “which probably came into being in the late 6th century” [p 155].
     11 Schäferdiek in Schneemelcher, p 172.  The Acts of John in Rome is a recension of Acts of John.  The first 17 chapters of Acts of John are lost; the Acts of John in Rome has a total 14 chapters, in two recensions, written “not before the 4th century” [p 172].
     12 This further nuanced interpretation seems to be implied by Decker, but is not explicit – at least as I read him.  Therefore, I take full responsibility; any errors in understanding Decker or in my exegesis are fully my own!  But, note that the three apocryphal works referenced earlier do not seem to have another preaching the Gospel while John drank the poison.
     13 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth, p 185; all emphasis in original (for those with later editions with different pagination, this is found in the chapter titled “This Present Revival” under the bolded heading GREATER WORKS).   The Greek word is actually (transliterated) meizon, not mizon.  Johnson prefaces this statement with a direct citation of John 14:12. Decker notes that some are of the opinion that the long ending can be paralleled with John 14:12, but he opines differently {pp 10-11}.  For an in-depth look at Jesus’ words in this passage of Scripture, see CrossWise article Greater Works Shall You Do.

Five Years On: Todd Bentley and Bob Jones Teaching Manifest Sons of God in 2008 (Birth of the Man-Child)

2008 was a banner year for the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR – what I term hyper-charismaticism) – at least until it was revealed that Todd Bentley was having an affair with his nanny and divorcing his wife, the mother of their two children (he and the nanny married later).  From April 2nd until about August 11th of that year the so-called Lakeland Revival was headed by Todd Bentley.  Bentley was, shall we say, “christened” by a number of NAR “Apostles” including C. Peter Wagner, Bill Johnson, Rick Joyner, Che Ahn, and others on June 23rd.  It’s too bad for these “Apostles” that there wasn’t an NAR “Prophet” who could have foreseen the disaster that was Bentley’s adultery/divorce and subsequent remarriage.  Perhaps all the NAR “Prophets” were deep in thought, otherwise busy, traveling, sleeping, etc. at the time (cf. 1 Kings 18:27-28)?  But I digress.

The purpose of this article is to revisit some Manifest Sons of God (MSoG) teaching in order to educate those not quite understanding this particular doctrine, its ramifications, and how it fits into the larger scheme of things.  Following are two examples from 2008.

On May 28, in a somewhat lengthy monologue, Bentley explicitly spoke of and promoted the MSoG doctrine.  Here’s a portion:

Tonight is a crossing over and we have a moment,’ says the Lord, ‘where we can labor and travail until Christ is formed in you

…I feel if we gave it a big push that we can literally form Christ – Christ in you.  I’m talking about a maturing of what God has placed on the inside of your spirit.  It’s gonna come out of the birth canal – it’s gonna come out of the womb – because there is a labor and there is a travailing that is going on in the spirit…

…And, we are saying LET THERE BE LIFE.  And, there was life—speaking things into existence.  I am talking about a creative realm… …Under the anointing you make a declaration and it forms tonight…

…We’re going to go back into travail right now until Christ is formed.  God promised a day where heaven and earth must retain Him until the restoration of all things.  Heaven will hold back the coming of Jesus Christ until sons and daughters come into maturity.  It’s called the Manifestation of the sons of God.

Heaven will hold back the Second Coming… A mature church manifests the glory of God.  A mature church manifests the Word of God in truth and power.  A mature church walks in holiness and character.  A mature church walks in miracle, signs, and wonders.

I’m talking about a maturity tonight – and it’s being formed in you.  Let Christ be formed in maturity.  Let the full man, let the fullness of God come forth, and let the womb open tonight…and let there be a great birthing…

The birthing, laboring, and travailing language is all part of the “birth of the man-child” doctrine, an important aspect of MSoG, as it’s the culmination of the teaching.  According to this teaching, there will be ‘one new, perfect man’ (a perversion of Ephesians 4:13).  This is the climax of Bentley’s monologue: “Let Christ be formed in maturity.  Let the full man, let the fullness of God come forth, and let the womb open tonight…and let there be a great birthing…” The New Age / New Spirituality calls this the forthcoming “Corporate Christ”.  MSoG doctrine is such that this “birth of the man-child” IS the Second Coming.  This is paralleled in New Age / New Spirituality teachings (see below).

With the proceedings of Lakeland in full swing, Bob Jones spoke at a conference held at Heritage International Ministries Retreat Center, featuring Todd Bentley, Bob Jones, and Rick Joyner, on August 08th (DVD of this event sold through Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries Media Store, item # TS50, “Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service, 08-08-08”).  Here’s an excerpt of his monologue:

The New Breed is just simply the body of Christ is gonna grow up…What He’s [God’s] doing now is bringing you to a level of maturity where you grow up…So, what he’s talking about is; the New Breed is this: it’s Romans 1:4 – the spirit of holiness.  So, for years I tried to get understanding of what the spirit of holiness is for it’s different than the Holy Spirit [ED: YIKES!].

So, last Saturday, He spoke to me about a New Breed of people.  And, He said, ‘I don’t want to get in front of them, I want you to get behind them.  They’ll be close to the ages of 25 and 40… this is who the New Breed is.’

The New Breed will be those that are partaker of the divine nature.  As you begin to grow into the likeness of Christ you’re gonna begin to partake of the divine nature.  And, once you begin to grow up in that-a-way you’ll continue to mature until you look like Christ all over the world.  Jesus was one person.  Now get ready for Jesuses [sic - plural of “Jesus”] all over the world.  Then, he began to tell me that those who have [sic] partaker of his divine nature shall be a friend with God – John  15:15…

So, that divine nature is a friend.  It’s really Paul’s prayer.  I believe God is answering Paul’s prayer in Galatians 4:19 ‘I travail for you, I pray for you until Christ be formed in you.’  There are Christians on the earth now that are growing in maturity to where Christ is being formed in youIf Christ is being formed in you then when you speak you’ll speak as Christ did.  And, you’ll have also authority in this.  Then, in this He was saying ‘this then will be a generation that will do nothing apart from the Father.’  So, I think the main thing you’re getting ready for is a generation for the fathers to come back in.  And, I think the first one that’s gonna come back is Papa.  For Jesus came back over…2000 years ago, The Holy Spirit came over 100 years ago [ED: apparently a reference to Azuza Street], this last revelation is who your Daddy is.  And, I think this is what’s getting ready – is Papa’s getting ready to reveal his family.  And, His family, what He lacks in you is what was in His Son.  So, there are those who’s gonna begin to shine like the Son.  And, that divine nature will have authority over all the works of the enemy

I’ve been back here 33 years today [ED: Jones is speaking about his own purported death and resuscitation experience].  33 years ago I stood before the Lord.   I looked into His eyes.  To be honest with ya, I didn’t want to come back because it had been so hard.  But, He asked… He told me,” if you’ll go back you’ll see the greatest wave of all time in evangelism.  I’m gonna bring over a billion youth into myself.”  Now, these that’s between 25 and 40 are youth leaders.  Getting ready for a birthing of youth beyond anything you’ve ever seen before…And, what he’s after now is the 25 to 40’s which are harvesters…So, get ready.  Things have changed.  The New Breed – let’s get behind them.  For they’re gonna bring the youth behind them.  It’s a change of times.  The torch is being transferred from the old generation to this 25 to 40.  This is the New Breed.

We won’t go into all the issues in Jones’ awful use of Scripture (that was done here).  The main reason in putting both Bentley’s and Jones’ MSoG teachings on the same page is to show the reader what to look for in the teachings of others.  With this in mind, re-read (or read for the first time) the two previous CrossWise articles (here and here) and look for similarities.  Let’s discuss. 

But, before doing so, ponder on the words of Alice A. Bailey – occultist, New Ager, the willing vehicle of the channeled writings of “Djwhal Khul”:

…We can produce, and as a [human] race, give birth to, the next kingdom in nature, which Christ called the kingdom of God; this is the kingdom of souls, the kingdom of spiritual lives, and herein, uniquely, Christ emerges… [From Bethlehem to Calvary: The Initiations of Jesus © 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey, Lucis Trust, 4th paperback ed., 1989, Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 259.  Emphasis added.]

More explicitly, here’s Barbara Marx Hubbard in her work The Book of Co-Creation: The Revelation, Our Crisis is a Birth [Foundation for Conscious Evolution, Sonoma, CA, 1993 (first edition)] with even more alarming tie-ins to Bentley’s and Jones’ messages above (and others who’ve taught MSoG in hyper-charismaticism).  In a section titled The Marriage of Christ and Eve, she begins by referencing the Virgin Birth and the fact that Christ raised Himself from the dead – at least she affirms Jesus Christ’s role in His own resurrection, contrary to Bill Johnson and others who claim it was “the Father by the Spirit” – wondering: “Are we moving beyond sexual reproduction and preprogrammed death?” [p 55].

In order for “Eve” to marry Christ, one’s body must be prepared to transform, to regenerate itself…

If we are approaching a new “normalcy,” normalizing in ourselves what Christ could do, as the next stage in our evolution, then do we have the innate ability, as a proto-universal species, to “become mothers to ourselves,” giving birth to ourselves as fully evolved humans?… [p 56.  Emphasis added.]

Marx Hubbard ponders this and other questions until she receives a “revelation” about her own previous “birth experience”, which she records in a journal:

The benign presence I sensed in my planetary birth experience was the Christ.  The light that surrounded the Earth and awakened us was the Christ-light.  The light that arose within us was the Christ-light that dwells in every one of us! [p 56.  Bold in original]”

She then explains:

The Christ “act” – to do the work that he did – is a new kind of resurrection and transformation at the dawn of the next stage of evolution.

The marriage of Christ and Eve happens at the Second Coming.  It is in real time, like his birth.  It is an event in history [p 56.   Emphasis added.]

Recall the words of many in hyper-charismaticism, such as this one example by Bill Johnson: Jesus is returning for a bride whose body is in equal proportion to her head [as referenced here].  Also, consider Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO, with his emphasis on the so-called “Bridal Paradigm”, in which Jesus is “love-sick for His Bride”.

Later in this same book Marx Hubbard goes through the Book of Revelation [skipping 6:3-8, though this is covered in an unpublished manuscript of this work, as quoted from here], claiming new revelation from “Higher Voices”.  In the following these “Voices” ‘expound’ on Revelation 9:15-16, 18-21, bringing “new revelation”:

The alternative to Armageddon is the Planetary Pentecost.  When a critical mass are in the upper room of consciousness on a planetary scale, each will hear from within, in their own language, the mighty words of God.  All who are attuned will be radically empowered to be and do as Jesus did.  If those people who are not self-centered align their thoughts in perfect faith, that they are whole, created in the image of God, the world can be saved.  [p 147.  Emphasis in original.]

Obviously, we know that God will not change His Word and save the whole world.  But, note the similarities of this to various teachers within hyper-charismaticism.  Note the hyper-charismatic call to unity at the expense of sound doctrine.  Recall Jones’ (and others) teaching that there will be a “billion souls saved”.  Are these actually a billion souls lost to the New Age / New Spirituality “Jesus”?

Reader, I implore you, please read the words of Bentley and Jones then compare to the words of Marx Hubbard and Bailey.

NOTE: The Barbara Marx Hubbard material was reprised in a later book titled The Revelation: A Message of Hope for the New Millennium [Nataraj Publishing, Novato, CA, 1995], with the pagination a bit different from above.

Chuck Pierce Hosts Conference Referencing ‘One New Man’

[Updated! 09/16/12.  New "word" from Bob Jones on Joel's Army both on the Elijah List and Jones' own site.  See below.]

This weekend Chuck D. Pierce, President of Global Spheres, Inc., is hosting the “Head of the Year Celebration” at his Global Spheres Center in Corinth, Texas.  The full title of the conference, to commence September 20 and conclude on the 23rd, is From Recovery to Wholeness: A Year to Bridge the Past and Enter the Future.  Since this upcoming year will be 5773 on the Jewish calendar, Pierce is claiming this is the ‘year of the camel’ as the number 3 in Hebrew was originally pictured as a camel.  Speakers to include Pierce, C. Peter Wagner, Dutch Sheets, Jay Swallow, Trevor Baker, “Bishop” Bill Hamon, Paul Keith Davis, Venner Alston, Mark Chironna, Avner & Rachel Boskey, Rania Sayegh, Jeff Jansen and Robert Heidler.

The event is billed with the usual superlatives: “This is a time to keep your feet moving and go beyond where you have been in the past, until you drink and eat of the produce of your promise! The Kingdom of God will become the greatest influence in the earth realm.”

The subjects to be discussed at the Conference are the following:

  1. See the Camels Coming to Bring the Rewards and Reimbursements for Our Sorrows!
  2. Find Our Way of Escape from the Past!
  3. Cross the Bridge of the Past and Enter the Glory of the Future!
  4. Neutralize the Enemy’s Power, Recover Lost Strength, and Nourish Us into WHOLENESS!
  5. See the Priesthood for this Hour Blossom!
  6. Grow Up and Mature into One New Man!
  7. Bring the Impoverished into a New Dimension of Prosperity!

I wish to focus on numbers 3 and 6.

To “Cross the Bridge of the Past and Enter the Glory of the Future” is very likely referring to fully accessing the power of the first century Apostles and ‘bridging’ this to our future ‘glory’.  “Glory” in the hyper-charismatic / New Order of the Latter Rain sense means the erroneous and heretical notion of the attainment to the fullness of manifested sons of God/Joel’s Army such that these ‘elites’ will have received their glorified, resurrection bodies on the earth – contrary to 1st Corinthians 15:20-28, 50-54.  These ‘glorified elites’ will possess powers exceeding those of the REAL 1st century Apostles with an even greater authority.  These manifested sons of God (MSoG) will have the ‘divine’ authority to execute judgment and exact punishment upon those in opposition as explained by “Bishop” Bill Hamon (the “R-T” in the following means Resurrection-Translation):

…The positive purpose of the R-T is to enable the army of the Lord [Joel’s Army, or MSoG militant] to finalize the war against all evil. The army of the Lord will progress on in the war until they have accomplished all they can in their limited mortal bodies. The R-T is for the purpose of immortalizing their bodies. This will remove all the earthly limitations, thereby enabling the saints unlimited abilities. They will be able to travel in all space realms of the heavenlies the same as Jesus and the angels do now. They can move in and out of all dimensions of the natural and spiritual realms as Jesus did in His resurrected flesh-and-bone body.1 

God’s great end-time army is being prepared to execute God’s written Judgments with Christ’s victory and divine judgment decrees that have already been established in heaven. The time is set when they will be administered and executed on earth through God’s saintly army. All that is destined and needed will be activated during God’s restorational Army of the Lord Movement2

The “One New Man” is a reference to the hyper-charismatic / New Order of the Latter Rain doctrine of Christ’s “second coming” – the full-on heretical doctrine that Christ will only return IN a perfected body of believers culminating in this “One New Man” (also known as the “birth of the man-child”).  This is what Hamon is referring to in the above.  Two recent examples incorporating both of these false teachings (numbers 3 and 6 above) are: 1) Bill Johnson’s tweet from August 20, 2011 in which he states, “Jesus is returning for a bride whose body is in equal proportion to his head”, and, 2) Bob Jones statement at the 2011 “Piercing the Darkness Conference” held at Johnson’s Bethel Church, “Recently, the Lord spoke to me and said, I’m coming IN my people. Christ in you, the hope of glory. I’m comin’ IN my people.’3

Bill Johnson spoke on a “corporate anointing” – otherwise known as the “Corporate Christ” concept, which is the same as this “One New Man” – at Bethel about 2 years ago:

…Here’s what I’m believing for – I know it’s never happened; but, I know that it must before the end. There must be, not just individuals – I’m thankful we have individuals that are rising up with such anointing, such strength, we have people scattered all over the planet right now that are just making a mess of things in all the right ways. We are so encouraged. But, what I’m believing for is a generation – a generation that’ll rise up with a corporate faith, a corporate anointing to press into realms because it’s my conviction that as much as God put on a William Branham, or a Kathryn Kuhlman, or a Wigglesworth, He’ll put far greater anointing on a company of people than He ever would on an individual. To do that, there must be that corporate sense of, ‘we have to deal with the issue of obeying the rules of this kingdom to tap into the resources of this kingdom’…we cannot use the principles of this world and expect to tap into unlimited resource of the kingdom of God4

A new “word” on ‘Joel’s Army’ was just posted on Bob Jones’ site and the Elijah List using Joel 2:1-11 as the proof-text.  Paul Cain used these verses for Joel’s Army back in the late ’80s, though this is now denied.  The following purportedly came out of an August 18, 2012 trance Bob Jones went in to while napping:

Shortly there will be a war that I will declare and it will be a great victory! For I am going to hire mercy-naries you see and I shall pay well when they work for Me. Health and peace of mind will be their pay and joy they never knew. Money will be the least of things for I will prosper them in all ways. Mercy-naries are professional soldiers that have fought in many lands and fought in many battles. They are well trained in the sword you see. The word of God I will put in them and that will be their victory. They shall know defeat no longer but they shall be victorious. They shall know honor in Me. There will be no defeat for them. They are warriors and I will give them the victory. My pay to them shall be love, joy and peace that they will have within themselves. This shall be the tip of the sword of which they touch many. They have been warriors in many religious churches. Now I call them unto “the church” and they will have a victory in Me. Amen. [Bold in original; underscore added.]

It is claimed that those chosen to be in this army “have fought in many battles and [have been] scarred by the religious spirit. This religious spirit will no longer be able to touch them because they have been healed and delivered from it.” Jones goes on to quote from Joel 2:1, then he declares:

These are the days Joel prophesied! The Father will blow the trumpet in Zion and call His army into formation. (Amos 1:1) These are not battle weary soldiers but warriors well-armed in the power of the word and the fear of the Lord. They march forward in the might of the Holy Spirit never breaking rank. They never strive against one another but move in unity forming God’s most powerful army.

Bob Jones continues to quote the Book of Joel moving to 2:7-10 (the following is in the NASB):

7 They run like mighty men,
They climb the wall like soldiers;
And they each march in line,
Nor do they deviate from their paths.
8 They do not crowd each other,
They march everyone in his path;
When they burst through the defenses,
They do not break ranks.
9 They rush on the city,
They run on the wall;
They climb into the houses,
They enter through the windows like a thief.
10 Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.

This is followed by a section boldly titled God is Declaring War!:

The Father declares war but the mercenaries fight it at His command. We are the soldiers of fortune on this land. Our fortune is to do His Will. There will be great prosperity in His peace of mind, joy and love. The voice of the Father is the only one they will hear as they march forward into battle. Their life is spent on doing the Father’s will. Not one will cower to the fear of man or be led astray by the enemy.

This “word” is completed by finishing the section in Joel:

11 The Lord utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great,
For strong is he who carries out His word.
The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it? [NASB]

These ideas have parallels in New Age / New Spirituality teachings.  Here’s a quote from Alice Bailey from a century ago referencing the “Corporate Christ” concept corresponding to a false second Coming:

…Eventually, there will appear the Church Universal, and its definite outlines will appear towards the close of this [20th] century…This Church will be nurtured into activity by the Christ [ED: actually Satan/antichrist] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle, the true second Coming, has been accomplished5

Here’s another New Age / New Spirituality site proclaiming a similar thing specifying that when this ‘Christ’ “reappears” (the belief is he never left), he will appear in many people at one time:

The Christ, when He comes into incarnation, will most likely project himself into many parts and be where he wants to be. This is called the Law of Divisibility, a term used in Agni Yoga that means a highly developed spirit—one who is able to contact, simultaneously, various people in various locations.6

Barbara Marx Hubbard, former US Vice Presidential candidate (in 1984, although Geraldine Ferraro ultimately made it on the Democratic ticket) and staunch New Ager, explicated a radical version of “Joel’s Army” in an unpublished manuscript from 1980 referencing Revelation 6:7-8 with the ‘pale horse’ of verse 8 representing those “elected to transcend with all their heart, mind and spirit”.7  This pale horse will “kill with sword” (Rev 6:8) the one-fourth of the population which refuses to “evolve” with the rest, deemed the “self-centered”8 – those who will fail to join the others into making the next evolutionary leap from homo sapiens sapiens to homo universalis (Universal Humanity).  Compare this to Hamon’s and Jones’ words above:

Before this stage of power can be inherited by the God-centered members of the social-body, the self-centered members must be destroyed.  There is no alternative.  Only the God-centered can evolve…

Fortunately, you, dearly beloveds, are not responsible for this act.  We are.  We are in charge of God’s selection process for planet Earth.  He selects, we destroy.  We are the riders of the pale horse, Death.

We come to bring death to those who are unable to know God.  We do this for the sake of the world…

The riders of the pale horse are about to pass among you.  Grim reapers, they will separate the wheat from the chaff.  This is the most painful period in the history of humanity.

Those of you who know what is happening – the one-fourth who are now listening to the higher self – are to be guides for the rest who will be panicked and confused.9

Is this the sort of thing Bill Hamon, Bob Jones and the other hyper-charismatic leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation have in mind for those Christians who refuse to unify with their false belief system?  Must the earth be purged of those “self-centered” Christians – the ones who will not unify with these false ecumenical, pluralistic efforts – to pave the way for the “One New Man”?  Placing Hamon’s and Jones’ quotes above alongside Marx Hubbard’s, one must really wonder which side Hamon, Jones and their cohorts are really on.

It seems that, just like Marx Hubbard’s theology, there must be a battle to get rid of those “self-centered” Christians with a “religious spirit” before the “One New Man” can emerge.  That is, this war must be fought before “Christ” can ‘return’ “IN his people” after which they become collectively “One New Man” a/k/a homo universalis (Universal Humanity).

LORD have mercy upon us all.

1Bill Hamon Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God. 1997 (2nd printing), Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA, pp 264-265.  Emphasis added.
2Hamon, p 252.  Emphasis added.
3Jones, Bob “The Coming Kingdom” Piercing the Darkness Prophetic Conference, February 2011. Hosted by Bethel Church, Redding, CA, Feb 23-25, 2011, Session 4, Feb 24, 2011, 7:00pm, 38:53 – 39:05. Emphasis in original. Available for sale at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church website: <http://store.ibethel.org/p4810/piercing-the-darkness-february-2011-complete-set-bethel-campus>; as accessed 09/15/12.
4“ChasingRiver” The Real Jesus – Part 4 – by Bill Johnson. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHcRI60j0HI&feature=related>, 0:35 – 1:45; as accessed 09/15/12.
5Alice A. Bailey The Externalisation of the Hierarchy. © 1957 Lucis, NY, 6th printing 1981; Fort Orange Press, Albany, NY, p 510. Underscore from emphasis in original; bold added for my own emphasis. Most sections within the book have corresponding dates of initial writing, or, more accurately, transmission. The portion quoted here is from 1919.
6World Service Intergroup website. J.D. Dubois, “The Christ, His Reappearance, and the Avatar of Synthesis” <http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/?#/christ-reappearance/4543145171> World Service Intergroup; Dubois; par 5; as accessed 09/15/12.
7Barbara Marx Hubbard The Book of Co-Creation: An Evolutionary Interpretation of the New Testament – Part III, The Revelation: Alternative to Armageddon. 1980, unpublished manuscript, p 59.  From the title page: “The Book of Co-Creation is a three part unpublished manuscript written by Barbara Marx Hubbard in 1980.  Part III follows in its pre-publication form.”  Interestingly, the first edition of a book by Marx Hubbard titled The Book of Co-Creation: The Revelation, Our Crisis is a Birth [1993, The Foundation for Conscious Evolution, Sonoma, CA], which goes through the entire book of Revelation, entirely omits 6:7-8 proceeding from a reference to 6:1-2 (p 134) to 7:1-4 (p 138).
8Marx Hubbard, p 59
9Marx Hubbard, pp 60-61

Bill Johnson’s Christology: A New Age Christ?, part II

[See also Part I, The Christ Anointing and the Antichrist Spirit, Part IIIa, Part IIIb, and Part IV (Conclusion).]

[T]he church movement, like all else, is but a temporary expedient and serves but as a transient resting place for the evolving life.  Eventually, there will appear the Church Universal, and its definite outlines will appear towards the close of this [20th] century…This Church will be nurtured into activity by the Christ [ED: actually Satan/antichrist] and His disciples when the outpouring of the Christ principle, the true second Coming, has been accomplished.  No date for the advent do I set, but the time will not be long.

-Alice A. Bailey, 191939

As noted in part I, Bailey’s words were channeled through her by a demon known variously as “Djwhal Khul”, “the Tibetan”, or “Master D. K.”.  Bailey was essentially a disciple of H. P. Blavatsky, one of the founders of Theosophy.  Formed in 1875, Theosophy itself is an amalgamation (uniting) of occult doctrines with some roots in 1st/2nd century Gnosticism.  These Theosophical teachings form much of the basis of the New Age / New Spirituality.

As both the Bailey quote from part I and the one above illustrate, the goal was to infiltrate the Christian Church in order to transform it into part of one large universal esoteric Aquarian Age / New Age ‘church’.  The Apostle Paul warned in 2nd Thessalonians 2:9 about this fake ‘second coming’ of which Bailey refers, which is an attempt at mimicking Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.  Paul even applies the same Greek word (parousia) to both Jesus’ Second Coming [2nd Thes 2:1, 8] and the coming of the antichrist in his warning:

7For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who restrains him will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming [parousia].  9The coming [parousia] of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of miracles, signs and wonders, 10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.  They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie [pseudos (counterfeit)]  12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.[2 Thess 2:7-12, NIV 1984]

Parousia is defined: “arrival as the first stage in presence, coming, advent.40  By the complete context it’s clear that once the ‘lawless one’ is revealed there will be “all kinds of [false, counterfeit (pseudos)] miracles, signs and wonders”.  These will be absolutely real, but they will be false in the sense that they are coming from Satan.  Ultimately, the power comes from God as He allows Satan the use of this power for His own purposes (v 11).

However, note that “the secret power of lawlessness is already at work” during the time Paul wrote this epistle which is obviously well before the ‘lawless one’s’ revealing (v 8).  These counterfeit/false signs and wonders will be in evidence before the arrival of the antichrist.   He may not yet be ‘revealed’ but his works are already made manifest.  It seems to make sense that these counterfeit signs and wonders would be increasing in both quantity and intensity in the time immediately preceding this false parousia.

Promoter of New Age / New Spirituality teachings Matthew Fox expressed the need for global mysticism in his 1988 book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ in order to bring forth this “Church Universal” of which Bailey speaks above:

Without mysticism there will be no “deep ecumenism,” no unleashing of the power of wisdom from all the world’s religious traditions…The promise of ecumenism, the coming together of religions has been thwarted because world religions have not been relating at the level of mysticism.  The Western tradition appears to have nothing to offer on a mystical level because its religious traditions are unaware of their mystical heritage…41

Perhaps Fox wasn’t aware of the mysticism already growing in the Western church primarily in the hyper-charismatic wing of Christianity.  No doubt hyper-charismaticism has grown since the time his book was written.

At last year’s Piercing the Darkness “prophetic conference” held at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, CA, “prophet” Bob Jones told the audience they were “called to be a mystic generation”.42

…Man is six things.  He’s mind, will, and emotions.  He is human spirit, Holy Spirit and Wisdom of the Ages.  What happens if you begin to tap into the Wisdom of the Ages?  In that little bitty God sperm seed – 1st Peter 1:23 is all the Wisdom of the Ages.  That genetic thing – you have authority over DNA43

For the record, 1st Peter 1:23 is referring to the Holy Spirit indwelling upon conversion, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” [NIV 1984].  All of mankind does not have the Holy Spirit; only true Christians will be indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  Of course, what Jones is teaching here is not Biblical; but, what does he mean?  More on this in a bit.  “Wisdom of the Ages” is analogous to the ‘Ancient Wisdom’, or occult teachings,44 or “the power of wisdom from all the world’s religious traditions” as Fox states above.  Jones continues later in his ‘sermon’ with even more alarming words:

…Man was created all at oncet [sic: “once”]. Bang.  And God finished it and He made man out of the clay. The DNA.  What He put in here [ED: the body] was not DNA.  It was His genetics that has authority over DNA.  And, you’re gonna have to begin to get a-hold of this.  For this conscience of yours is really your spiritual guide.  God gave this to you to guide your lives.  Don’t violate your conscience.  In certain places it’s called your spirit.  Especially in 2nd Corinthians 7:1 it’s called spirit and flesh….45

Clearly, Jones is making a distinction between the creation of the spirit / conscience / “His (God’s) genetics” which was “made all at oncet”, and the physical human body (clay) containing DNA which was made subsequent to this, indicating a two-step process.  Yet, Scripture describes the creation of man a bit differently, “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” [Genesis 2:7, NIV 1984].  However, Jones words work well as a ‘Christianized’ explanation of the esoteric/occult/New Age doctrine of reincarnation.  To explain this doctrine, we’ll elicit help from some enthusiasts of the esoteric/occult.

In Annie Besant’s Theosophical/occult book The Ancient Wisdom from 1897 (Theosophy forms much of the basis of the New Age / New Spirituality teachings, as note above) she describes how the individual souls (spirits) await “the opportunity of incarnation” in human bodies:

…As the [human] race evolved, the human tabernacles improved, and myriads of souls [spirits] that were awaiting the opportunity of incarnation, that they might continue their evolution, took birth among its children….46

One time leader of the Theosophical Society Pasadena, Gottfried de Purucker, in his book Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, a “Commentary and Elucidation of H. P. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine”, explains that the spirit is immortal:

…The spirit is the immortal element in us, the deathless flame within us which dies never, which never was born, and which retains throughout…its own quality, essence, and life, sending down into our own being and into our various planes, certain of its rays or garments or souls which we are; and furthermore, that these rays, in descending, constituted the life-essences of a hierarchy, whether we treat of our own selves as individual human beings, or whether we think of the atom, or the solar system, or of the universal cosmos. 47

De Purucker may seem a bit confusing here (and his run-on sentences do not help in clarifying); but, what he’s stating is that in the doctrine of reincarnation all spirits are part of the one “god” who is within all things – a doctrine known as panentheism.  These spirits are immortal, eternal.  De Purucker differentiates between spirit and “soul” with the latter referring to any vehicle containing the spirit.  Each entity has its own “soul”.  That is, the descending spirit has its own “soul”, its vehicle, which enables it to descend and it, in turn, inhabits the soul/vehicle of the human body.48  Besant above is speaking of the soul as vehicle containing this immortal spirit which is “awaiting  the opportunity of incarnation”.  According to this occult doctrine, the human being can function without acknowledging this descended spirit; however, once one acknowledges the ‘god spirit’ inside, one can begin the path to “godhood”.

After explaining how the immortal spirits emanate from the transcendent “God”, and that each spirit remains fully “God”, yet the transcendent “God” is in no way diminished, de Purucker provides a helpful analogy:

A perfect analogy is found in the intrauterine development of man and his descent into incarnation.  His [immortal] spiritual nature does not come down and become his actual body; it remains always his spiritual nature…[T]he physical man, the body, is in very truth the ‘temple of the living God,’ which is itself the glory thereof, hence a part of the temple; the temple, verily, is the lowest manifestation of the living God within.49

In the doctrine of reincarnation, the immortal, disembodied spirit must inhabit a new body at conception as de Purucker and Besant illustrate.   Going back to the first Jones quote: his teaching about “God sperm” works well when put into the context of reincarnation in which the immortal spirits ‘take birth’ in the ‘temple of the living God’.  Combining this with Jones’ second quote, he is claiming that the “God sperm seed” [immortal spirit] provides the “authority” over your DNA (your body) since this “God sperm seed” is, as he calls it, the spirit / conscience or, ‘God’s genetics’, which is placed into the “clay” (body) containing your DNA.  So, once you “tap into the Wisdom of the Ages”, according to Jones, you will gain authority over your DNA.  Apparently this is the basis for the “spiritual DNA” teachings which are becoming more prevalent both in the hyper-charismatic and “Emergent” streams of Christendom.  More on this “spiritual DNA” in part III.

Jones continues with more esoteric teaching, this time sounding decidedly New Age:

But, you’re getting ready to wake up for the night is far spent and the dawn is at hand.  And we’re getting ready for one of the greatest awakenings of all time – no revival but a’ awakening that never ends50

One can almost hear the refrain of the 1969 hit by The 5th Dimension “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” at this point: “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius…”  According to the New Age / New Spirituality, we are currently in the latter stages of the Age of Pisces and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius is imminent.

But, Jones is far from through [the remainder will be the subject of a future post].  He even speaks of Christ coming in His people, a reference to the anti-biblical doctrine known as the “birth of the man-child” which is part of the heretical manifested sons of God (MSoG) teaching (MSoG is also an occult / New Age teaching):

…Recently, the Lord spoke to me and said, “I’m coming IN my people.  Christ in you, the hope of glory.  I’m comin’ IN my people.”51

This is not dissimilar to his August 08, 2008 monologue at a conference hosted by Heritage International Ministries and distributed by Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries:

As you begin to grow into the likeness of Christ you’re gonna begin to partake of the divine nature.  And, once you begin to grow up in that-away you’ll continue to mature until you look like Christ all over the world.  Jesus was one person.  Now get ready for Jesuses [sic; plural of “Jesus”] all over the world.52

Esoteric/occult/New Age literature has long proof-texted Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” to indicate the god within which needs to be first realized then actualized.  As but one example of Alice Bailey, “There is a growing and developing belief that Christ is in us, as He was in the Master Jesus…”53 Here Jones seemingly has yet another application in mind.  Is he speaking of the fake parousia, the false second coming of which both the Apostle Paul and Alice Bailey spoke?

Actually, Bob Jones has been speaking these sorts of things for about 25 years now.  To help further explain the preceding Jones material, here’s a more direct, concise quote from the late Earl Paulk which should help shed some light (actually dark):

…‘Christ in us’ is God’s continuing incarnation…The Church is Christ’s body, the incarnation of Christ today.  The mystery which has been hidden but is now revealed to His saints is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’  The mystery of this generation is Christ in us.  We never understood that mystery fully.  We pray to a ‘God beyond the clouds in heavenly places’ when Christ is in us.  The hope of glory is not in the heavenlies – the ‘hope of the heavenlies’ is on earthEvery departed saint is gathered, waiting to see how many of us are going to receive understanding and bring Christ from the heavenliesThey are waiting for total redemption as we are.

If God’s love is going to be manifested on planet earth, who is going to demonstrate it?  Christ in us, the hope of glory.  God has no other place to show His love except through His body.54

Satan and his demons need our cooperation to do their bidding (“the hope of the heavenlies is on earth”).  Following is the New Age / New Spirituality teaching on the false parousia as Bailey calls it, “the outpouring of the Christ principle, the true second Coming”.  According to New Age / New Spirituality, when “the Christ” (antichrist, the new ‘World Teacher’) “reappears”, he will also have the ability to manifest through many people at one time:

The Christ, when He comes into incarnation, will most likely project himself into many parts and be where he wants to be. This is called the Law of Divisibility, a term used in Agni Yoga that means a highly developed spirit—one who is able to contact, simultaneously, various people in various locations.55

Does this not seem uncomfortably close to the Jones/Paulk version above?  Continuing:

For example, a Master can be seen in various groups at the same time. He can even be in different planes serving and teaching on different levels to meet various needs of the people. He can do different jobs in different places at one time. He impresses the space with his images, and so forth.56

Certainly, Bill Johnson bears some responsibility for Bob Jones’ teaching since this “prophetic conference” was hosted at his Bethel Church.  Presumably, he’ll likely revert back to his words here:

…As a pastor I sometimes invite speakers who come in a rough package but carry a great anointing.  I do this to train my congregation to recognize the anointing and to celebrate who people are, not who they aren’t.  People want to be doctrinally safe, not relationally safe.  Often people expect me to publicly rebuke a previous speaker for teaching against what we believe.  I will do that only if it’s actual heresy.57

One has to wonder what Johnson’s definition of heresy is.  Certainly, refusing to rebuke a specific unbiblical or anti-biblical teaching by an individual who has spoken at his church amounts to tacit approval despite his statement above.  However, given that the Bob Jones material cited in this section (excepting the MorningStar monologue) is sold in both audio and video format at Bethel, this connotes not just tacit but explicit endorsement.  And for this, Johnson should be held responsible.  With this endorsement from Bethel, one may be led to believe Jones’ teachings (at the least his words on this DVD/cd) are part of the Johnson / Bethel belief system.  Are they?

Bob Jones “The Coming Kingdom”
Piercing the Darkness, 2011

Bob Jones lurks in the background of much of hyper-charismaticism.  He is lauded as a true ‘prophet of God’.  Do his esoteric teachings form the backdrop for the movement as a whole?  “Apostles” in the New Apostolic Reformation, the very ones who claim authority, do nothing to correct any of Jones’ strange teachings.  Since Bill Johnson himself is a recognized ‘Apostle’ within his own sphere of influence, he certainly has the authority.  Will he correct any of Jones’ teachings?  Has he yet?

Bill Johnson: Deceived Deceiver or Deceiving Deceiver?

While we cannot know for certain an individual’s true heart or motives, we are to ‘know them by their fruit’ [Matthew 7:15-23], i.e. their doctrines and practices.  Following is a list of things showing redefinition of key Christian terms and concepts, apparent deceit, questionable associations and endorsements, a dubious ‘healing’, and other concerns:

– It has been demonstrated that Bill Johnson has redefined repentance and, even worse, Christ and antichrist spirit, some of this in mid-paragraph.  It is very difficult to view this as other than deliberate.  Given that Johnson has changed Christ to “anointing” and antichrist spirit to ‘anti-anointing’, and that he’s termed our present era the “post-denominational era”,58 is it any wonder that Johnson would want the anointing of William Branham, the one who called all Protestant denominations antichrist?59

…That antichrist spirit that we’re studying, in denominationalism, and proven that denominationalism is antichrist….60

– The circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the Roberts Liardon library indicate apparent deceit.  Of note also: Liardon’s book God’s Generals is highly endorsed by Johnson.61  This book contains historical snapshots of a number of “past revival leaders” including Branham.  While Liardon doesn’t shy away from some of the problems with Branham in the latter part of his days including that denominationalism was “the mark of the beast”,62 he attributes these doctrinal aberrations to be caused by Branham moving away from his ‘gift of healing’63 which he claims God “couldn’t take back”.64  Liardon mentions the fact that Branham could only heal if his ‘angel’ was “standing at his right side”.65  Apparently, according to Kurt Koch, in his book Occult A-B-C, Branham’s ‘angel’ would not appear when Christians were in the audience praying thus rendering Branham powerless:

There are disturbing powers here.  I can do nothing.66

Since when is God constrained by “disturbing powers”?

– He clearly borrows from Word of Faith (WoF) theology.  As stated in a previous article, some of his doctrines follow Kenneth E. Hagin, Sr. in the way he moves from one Biblical proof-text to the next to make his theological points.  One such example is the ‘born again Jesus’ teaching in which he moves from Hebrews 1:4-5 to Acts 13:33 although Johnson stops short of Hagin’s claim that Jesus went to hell, took on Satan’s nature and was subsequently ‘born again’.

Here’s one Johnson quote illustrating the WoF ‘prosperity gospel’:

…Jesus destroyed the power of sin, sickness, and poverty through His redemptive work on the cross. In Adam and Eve’s commission to subdue the earth, they were without sickness, poverty, and sin. Now that we are restored to His original purpose, should we expect anything less? After all, this is the better covenant! 67

Moreover, it has been demonstrated that there’s a strong possibility Johnson has even adopted the same (re)definition as E.W. Kenyon for the word reality (the spiritual realm as opposed to the physical).  Kenyon, from whom Hagin borrowed heavily, was the originator of Word of Faith doctrine.  Kenyon very likely borrowed this redefinition from Theosophy (H. P. Blavatsky) who apparently had in mind the Dualism of 1st/2nd century Gnosticism.

– Johnson has friends who have propounded and continue to promote unorthodox and heretical doctrines including Bob Jones (as noted in the previous section), Todd Bentley and others.   Conferences of which Johnson both hosts and speaks feature individuals with unbiblical and anti-biblical doctrines and some with questionable practices.  He specifically backed Todd Bentley both at the Lakeland “Revival” and in its aftermath, and he even wrote a letter last year in support of him recommending him for ‘ministry’.

– There is at least one recorded dubious (or worse) healing.  The following probably says it all: “What have I done?  This guy thinks he hobbled in here…wait until he tries to walk out!68 The Biblical witness does not once show God making an individual worse en route to divine healing.  In essence, Johnson states that God subsequently ‘covered him’ for his initial mistake in this ‘healing’.69

– Johnson promotes contradicting concepts.  Johnson states one thing one time then contradicts this very thing the next.  One example is his definitive statement, “sin and its nature have been yanked out by its roots”.70  This, of course, is not Biblical as we never get rid of our sin nature until we receive our imperishable bodies [1 Cor 15] at the resurrection of the saints.  Johnson will make statements seemingly affirming our ability to remain sinless71 (a view in common with New Age / New Spirituality) yet, at other times Johnson will make statements about our sin.72  In addition, Johnson’s followers sometimes understand his teachings in an unorthodox manner while Johnson rarely makes any attempts to correct these ‘misunderstandings’.

With all the preceding in mind, let’s look at a few statements which seem to contain orthodox statements at least in part:

Jesus was (and is) God.  Eternally God.  That never changed.  But he chose to live with self imposed restriction while living on earth in the flesh – as a man.  In doing so He defeated sin, temptation, the powers of darkness as a man.  We inherit His victory – it was for us.  He never sinned!” [Facebook 3/21/2011]

The first three sentences in and of themselves are entirely orthodox.  Adding the fourth, some have understood Johnson to be teaching what is known as functional(ist) kenosis (see here for a full discussion on kenosis, or self-emptying), i.e. that Jesus retained all His divine attributes yet chose not to use his omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience (and possibly other traits) during His earthly ministry relying instead on the Holy Spirit. [This view violates some key Scripture in any case: Heb 1:3/Col 1:17; John 5:21, 24-25.]  However, this narrow view fails to look at the rest of Johnson’s explicit statements as shown in part I and this article which prove the contrary.

Moreover, “self imposed restriction” can also be understood such that the Word voluntarily divested Himself of some or all divine attributes at the moment of the virginal conception/birth resulting in this restriction.  This would indicate a stronger form of kenosis (or worse) known as ontological kenosis.  In fact, this seems more likely given Johnson’s next sentence that Jesus defeated “the powers of darkness as a man”.  In addition, the emphatic last sentence seems to drive home that it was His sinlessness as a man which provided “His victory”.  According to orthodox Christianity, to provide effective Atonement Jesus had to be both fully God and fully man on the Cross.

In addition, it’s important to note that all modern (mid 19th century to today) kenosis theorists proclaim Jesus Christ’s eternal deity yet many effectively deny this in their theory by asserting He lacked some or all divine attributes while incarnate creating an inherent contradiction.

Here’s another quote which backs up the assertion that it’s both the stronger kenosis (or worse) and Jesus Christ’s lack of sin that is Johnson’s focus.  The following even suggests that if one were to follow Jesus’ example one could be sinless (again, this is not unlike New Age / New Spirituality teaching):

Jesus modeled what life could be like for any person that had no sin and was filled with the Spirit of God.  He’s eternally God; He’s not a created being – He’s eternally God, but He set aside divinity and chose to live with the same set of restrictions that a human being would have.  Why? To set an example for us.  Now if He did what He did as God, I’m still impressed; but, I’m not inclined to follow.  But when I find out He did it as a man with the same limitations I have, suddenly I’m no longer content to stay where I’m at.73

In the following, a statement in an article in the March 2012 Charisma, Johnson states quite explicitly that Jesus no longer had any deity/divinity during the Incarnation:

While Jesus is eternally God, He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man (see Phil. 2:7). It’s vital to note that He did all His miracles as a man, not as God.

If He did them as God I would still be impressed. But because He did them as a man yielded to God, I am now unsatisfied with my life, being compelled to follow the example He has given us. Jesus is the only model for us to follow.74

The Charisma article states that this quote was adapted from his book (co-authored with Randy Clark) The Essential Guide to Healing.  Here’s the quote from the book which is much the same as above:

Jesus emptied Himself of divinity and became man (see Philippians 2:7).  While He is eternally God, He chose to live within the restrictions of a man who had no sin and was empowered by the Holy Spirit.  In doing this, He provided a compelling model for us to follow.75

Each of these suggests not ‘merely’ kenosis but metamorphosis instead, i.e. the Word literally became a man transforming Himself into a human devoid of any deity/divinity.76  Perhaps Johnson was not very careful with his words (and Charisma as well as Chosen Books, the publisher of his book, were equally careless in editing); however, when taken together with the other two statements above and the rest of his Christological statements, something is definitely amiss.  This reconfirms the analysis of Johnson’s Christology in part I.  Moreover, in looking over all the other evidence noted in this section one may wonder if he is not deliberately making these seemingly confusing and contradictory statements.

However, Johnson does proclaim Christ’s eternal deity in most of these statements, doesn’t he?  As regards this ‘affirmation’ issue, this proclamation of Christ, we must look at some Scripture such as 1st Corinthians 12:3, “…and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit”.  Gordon Fee, in his commentary on 1st Corinthians, does not see this as a “means of ‘testing the spirits’…” because “…it would seem possible for anyone to say these words at will“.77

The presence of the Spirit in power and gifts makes it easy for God’s people to think of the power and gifts as the real evidence of the Spirit’s presence.  Not so for Paul.  The ultimate criterion of the Spirit’s activity is the exaltation of Jesus as Lord.  Whatever takes away from that, even if they be legitimate expressions of the Spirit, begins to move away from Christ to a more pagan fascination with spiritual activity as an end in itself.78

Following is Craig Blomberg expounding on Matthew 7:15-23:

Jesus now explicitly addresses the situation in which greater numbers profess Christ than actually follow him.  He describes some of the pretenders as “false prophets,” those who claim to be God’s spokespersons but are not.  Yet, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, they give all external appearances of promoting authentic Christianity in both word and work.  “Prophets” as in the Old Testament, refer to those who either foretell or “forthtell” God’s word.

Verses 21-22 enumerate some of the ways in which individuals can masquerade as Christians.  They may verbally affirm that Jesus is their Master, perhaps with great joy and enthusiasm…some [may] work various kinds of miracles…We are reminded that signs and wonders can come from other sources other than God…It is worth emphasizing, however, that one can never know with absolute certainty the spiritual state of any other individual.79 

Blomberg’s last statement works both ways: one cannot affirm with absolute certainty whether another is a Christian and one cannot affirm with absolute certainty that s/he is not.  We must look at their ‘fruit’.  Johnson’s ‘fruit’, as outlined above, should give us cause for concern.

Keeping in mind the goal as specified by Alice Bailey in part I of this article in “ preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages”,80 the kenosis/metamorphosis teachings may be a way to ‘Christianize’ the concept of reincarnation, i.e. by superimposing this on the subject of the person of Christ in a way that seemingly remains ‘Christian’.

From a Christian perspective one cannot state, “Jesus is eternally God” yet claim, “He emptied Himself of His divinity and became a man”, as this is a logical contradiction.  However, in the esoteric doctrine of reincarnation all spirits are immortal.  “Immortal” can be synonymous with “eternal”.  And according to the Theosophical doctrine of reincarnation all of these immortal spirits are a part of the one transcendent “God”, so one could say these are “gods” as well.   Therefore, one could claim that not only is Jesus “eternally God”, we are also gods, for we all, including Jesus, have these immortal spirits within us!81

Essentially, Bill Johnson, like much, if not all, of the rest of hyper-charismaticism, humanizes Jesus at the expense of His deity.  This makes Jesus just like we are, and makes us just like Jesus.  Once the playing field is leveled in this way, the door is opened to deify ourselves, to make ourselves into gods.  Consider the following Johnson statement with this in mind:

…And the whole issue of Jesus going to the Father was that He would be going as the Resurrected, Ascended, glorified Son of God, and, in that condition would set the stage for what you and I would become.  It’s an amazing part of the Gospel.  Did you know that Jesus gave up everything to become a man?   He owned everything.  He and His Father owned everything…But when He became a manHe forfeited everything to become a man.

One of the most amazing truths in the Bible…in John 16 is that Jesus re-inherited everything…He’s talking to His disciples…‘The Father’s given me everything.’  Now think about this.  He gave it all up; He forfeited His right to everything to take on a human body and be murdered to take upon Himself what you and I deserve so that we could take upon ourselves what only He deserves.  Stunning. 

The Father so honored Him for His perfect obedience that He now re-inherited everything; but, now not as GodDon’t misunderstand me, Jesus is not an ascended being; He’s not, uh, He didn’t work His way up into divinity.  He is eternally God, eternally God.  But, when He re-inherited everything, He inherited it as a man without sin.  Why?  Because He became our elder brother.  He became the one who inherited everything.  Why?  So, that you and I could be positioned to inherit everything with Him.  He forfeited all so that He could re-inherit in a way that would include us.82

Note the disclaimer in the last paragraph, “Jesus is not an ascended being…He didn’t work his way up into divinity” and his stammering in the middle.  It appears Johnson is well aware of the Christological contradiction inherent in his teaching: Christ cannot be eternally God yet temporally (in our time-space continuum) merely a man during His earthly ministry.    But more importantly, he’s obviously aware of New Age teaching which he seems to be trying hard to convince the audience he is not teaching.83

Most importantly, this quote begs the question: what did Jesus relinquish when He “forfeited everything to become a man”, and what did he subsequently “re-inherit in a way that includes us”?  Did He become wholly a man complete with the human sin nature yet successfully remain sinless, thereby (re)attaining His salvation and becoming the model for the rest of mankind to follow in order to attain their own salvation in the same fashion?  Or, did He forfeit His divinity and subsequently regain it thereby paving the way for mankind to attain deity?  Considering all the Christological quotes above, one or both of these seem to be quite logical conclusions to Johnson’s teaching, for it seems Jesus gave up His divinity at the beginning of the Incarnation and reacquired it some time before or at Ascension.  This is not inconsistent with WoF doctrine.84

No matter how all this is meant, any interpretation seems not to approach Christian orthodoxy.

Part IIIa will take specific quotes of Bill Johnson and compare these to various quotes from New Age material.  In addition, Part IIIb we’ll take a closer look at the “spiritual DNA” teaching and will discuss “the Word made flesh”.  All this should prove quite ‘illuminating’.

39Bailey, Externalisation; p 510.  Emphasis added.
40Bauer, Walter, F. W. Danker, W. F.  Arndt, F. W. Gingrich A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 2000 (3rd ed.),University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL; pp 780-781.  Also known as “BDAG”.
41Fox, Matthew The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance. © 1988 by Matthew Fox, HarperCollins, New York, NY; p 65.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
42Jones, Bob “The Coming Kingdom” Piercing the Darkness Prophetic Conference, February 2011. Hosted by Bethel Church, Redding, CA, Feb 23-25, 2011, Session 4, Feb 24, 2011, 7:00pm; 16:02 – 16:05.  Available for sale at Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church website: <http://store.ibethel.org/p4810/piercing-the-darkness-february-2011-complete-set-bethel-campus> As accessed 04/01/12.
43Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 11:30 – 11:59.  Emphasis added.
44de Purucker, G. Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy. © 1979 Theosophical University Press, 2nd rev ed (1932), Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, CA; p 147.  The front cover describes the book as a “Commentary and Elucidation of H. P. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine.  From the text on page 147 referencing volume I of Blavatsky’s work (page 272): “The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages…”
45Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 24:36 – 25:30.  Emphasis added.
46Besant, Annie The Ancient Wisdom: An Outline of the Theosophical Teachings. © 1939 The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, (1897; 8th Adyar ed 1969), Adyar, Madras, India; p 214.  Book is “dedicated with gratitude, reverence, and love to H. P. Blavatsky who showed me the light”.  While there are a few minor discrepancies in the teachings of Blavatsky, Besant and Bailey, they mostly agree.
47de Purucker; p 157.  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.
48de Purucker; p 154.  “…What do we mean by soul as contrasted with spirit?  We speak of the human soul and the spiritual soul, and we speak of the astral soul, and we speak of the animal soul.  But we do not use those terms in connection with the word spirit.  Does it not teach us that the meaning of soul is that of a vehicle, an uphadhi in general; that vehicle, or any vehicle, in which the monad [ED: spirit, i.e. part of the transcendent “God”], in any sphere of manifestation, is working out its destiny?” [Emphasis in original.]  In this doctrine of reincarnation, everything has a “soul” – minerals, plants, animals and humans – and each have an inhabiting “spirit” which is using the “soul” as a vehicle to ascend to godhood.  The mineral must first ascend its way to the plant, then the animal, then the human, and ultimately to godhood.
49de Purucker; p 150
50Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 21:26 – 21:40.  Emphasis added.
51Jones, “Coming Kingdom”; 38:53 – 39:05.  Emphasis in original.
52Jones, Bob.  Excerpt of his monologue from an August 08, 2008 conference held at Heritage International Ministries Retreat Center featuring Todd Bentley, Bob Jones and Rick Joyner.  DVD sold through Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries, Media Store, VS19-000D. “Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service, 08-08-08”
<http://www.morningstarministries.org/store/teaching-sets/todd-bentley/todd-bentley-healing-and-impartation-service-08-08-08>.  Emphasis added.  As accessed 04/01/12.  Here’s an advertisement announcing the conference: <http://www.morningstarministries.org/events/morningstar-conferences/todd-bentley-healing-impartation-service-2008> As accessed 04/01/12
53Bailey, Externalisation; p 592.  Emphasis in original.
54Paulk, Earl Held in the Heavens Until…: God’s Strategy for Planet Earth. 1985, K Dimension Publishers, Atlanta, GA; p 229.  All emphasis added.
55World Service Intergroup website. Dubois, J.D. “The Christ, His Reappearance, and the Avatar of Synthesis” < http://www.worldserviceintergroup.net/#/christ-reappearance/4543145171 >   World Service Intergroup; Dubois; par 5; as accessed 03/27/12
56Dubois; par 5.  Continuing from above.
57Johnson, Face to Face; p 71, cf. 66-67
58Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 90
59Branham, William M. The Revelation of the Seven Seals. © 1993 VGR (2009 reprint), Voice of God Recordings, Jeffersonville, IA; pp 259, 283-285, cf. 259-295.  Transcribed from original tapes recorded March 17-24, 1963.
60Branham, p 259
61Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 103
62Liardon, Roberts God’s Generals: Why They Succeeded and Why Some Failed. © 1996 by Roberts Liardon (2nd prtng), Albury Publishing, Tulsa, OK; p 340.  The book is endorsed by C. Peter Wagner, Hee Kong, Jack Coe, Jr., Gerald Coates and others.
63Liardon; pp 335, 343
64Liardon; p 343
65Liardon; p 332
66Koch, Kurt Occult A-B-C. 1986 (2nd ed), Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI; p 235
67Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 33
68Johnson, Release Power of Jesus; p 107.  Emphasis added.
69Johnson, Release Power of Jesus; p 108
70Johnson, Heaven Invades; p 110
71Johnson, Heaven Invades; pp 29-30
72Johnson, Supernatural Power; p 110
73Johnson, Bill. “Authority and Power for Healing, Special Impartation and Activation Service”, NW Healing Explosion – Seattle Region, held at Sonrise Christian Center, Everett, WA, Thursday, December 1, 2011 (most likely date, as it seems there’s discrepancy between schedule on bulletin and date listed on url with Johnson’s monologue), 7pm; 42:30 – 43:10. <http://www.livestream.com/nwhealingexplosionseattle11/video?clipId=pla_49e5829f-8bef-4441-a0a1-3d91097b27a2&utm_source=lslibrary&utm_medium=ui-thumb> As accessed 04/01/12.  Emphasis added.  Many thanks to the CrossWise reader who sent this to me recently.
74Johnson, Bill. “You’ve Got the Power!” Charisma. March, 2012, Vol 37, No. 8; p 26.  Emphasis added.  Also currently available online: <http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/new-man/1622-features/32505-youve-got-the-power> Feb 23, 2012; par 7-8.  As accessed 04/01/12.  Many thanks to CrossWise reader/commenter Tim Bain for providing the source.
75Johnson, Bill, Randy Clark. The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick. © 2011 by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark, Chosen Books (a division of Baker Publishing Group), Bloomington, MN; p 125.  Emphasis added.  Each chapter is authored by either Bill Johnson or Randy Clark.  The chapter from which this quote is taken was authored by Johnson.
76This is consistent with Word of Faith doctrine.
77Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians: The New International Commentary on the New Testament. 1987, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MN; p 581.  Emphasis added.
78Fee, Corinthians; p 582.  Emphasis added.
79Blomberg, Craig L. The New American Commentary: Vol. 22; Matthew. 1992, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN; pp 132-133.  Emphasis added.
80Bailey, Externalisation. p 511
81See de Purucker; pp 150-151
82Johnson, Bill. Audio clip taken from 2010 Australian “When Heaven Invades Earth” Tour as accessed from Plantagenet Family Church, Mount Barker, Western Australia, 03/21/11 from the following url: <http://pfchurch.org.au/?p=357> which now is redirected to a different page altogether.  Link recovered on Internet Archive / The Wayback Machine; however, audio clip is unavailable: <http://web.archive.org/web/20101106155256/http://pfchurch.org.au/?p=357>.  Originally transcribed by CrossWise on 3/21/11 or just after; last access date to original web link unknown but likely Fall, 2011.  All emphasis added.  Many thanks to the CrossWise reader who sent this to me on 3/21/2011.
83A similar quote is available on YouTube by “whizzpopping” Bill Johnson – Bringing Heaven to Earth (Part 2 of 2). Aug 20, 2010 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxVdxzJ0vN4> 3:10 – 4:30: “He forfeited everything because He owned everything; literally all that exists was His. And, He gave it all up to become a man; and, then He re-inherited everything as a man so that you and I would have an inheritance – the absolute mercy of God.  So, now He stands after His triumphant Resurrection. The defeat of the power of death, hell and the grave – all that stuff was defeated, the power of sin. And, He stands before humanity and He says, ‘I got the keys back.  That which was lost in the Garden, I’ve got it back. Now, let’s get back to plan A.’  And, he makes this profound statement; he says, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”  Jesus did not make that declaration as GodNow, na – He’s eternally God; he’s not a created being, He didn’t ascend, ya know, to some position. He’s eternally God; but, He did not make that statement as God.  How do we know? Because He said, ‘All authority’s been given to me.’  There’s no one higher than God to give God authority.    When Jesus made that statement, He made the statement as our elder brother.”  Bold from emphasis in original; underscore added.  As accessed 04/01/12.  Once again, note the stammering in his disclaimer.
84McConnell, D. R. A Different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement. 1988 (4th prtng, March 1991), Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA; pp 116-133

Anthology of Bill Johnson Articles (So Far)

In Joseph Garlington’s foreword to Bill Johnson’s Face to Face with God: The Quest to Experience His Presence [2007, Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL], he quotes from Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz who asserts jazz music ‘never resolves’.  Miller goes on to claim that God “doesn’t resolve.”  Garlington then compares this to Johnson:

Bill’s ministry embraces paradox as though it is the most normal thing in the world…Often in his teaching ministry Bill will make a statement without ‘resolving’ it…His teaching entices you to pursue a way of thinking that is often foreign to traditional teachers, and it whets your appetite for something you always knew was there…

I recall in another book Johnson making a reference to jazz.  So, does Bill Johnson like jazz music that doesn’t resolve, i.e. the more avant garde (unorthodox, experimental, “cutting edge”) flavor of jazz?

…Years ago I bought a jazz album on a whim.  I eagerly looked forward to something fresh and new as I placed it on the turntable… [Dreaming with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence, 2006, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 47]

Hey, NOW we’re talkin’!  So, Johnson likes jazz and he has a turntable?!   My interest is piqued as I have an extensive collection of jazz records (vinyl) which I still play on a turntable.  “We just might be able to have a mutually edifying conversation about jazz,” I ponder.  Not too sure about theology though.

I wonder – which artists in jazz does Johnson like?  Perhaps it’s the spiritual/free jazz of the ’60s such as Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, late-period John Coltrane and the like?  Or, maybe he prefers the heyday of Blue Note with such artists as Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, etc.?  Or, perhaps he likes stuff such as Dave BrubeckThelonious Monk or perhaps Duke Ellington?  Vocalists such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan?  Maybe he’s a Miles Davis fan – but, then which era?  Perhaps Miles’ electric era of the late ’60s into the ’70s?  Or, how about Sun Ra (born Herman “Sonny” Blount)?  Now Ra had some very esoteric theology to go with his diverse musical excursions.   Perhaps he likes more contemporary stuff on the German ECM label some of which is European although the label includes the music of American Keith Jarrett among others.  Or, maybe this relatively new band Tongues of Fire?  Hopefully, he’s not calling stuff like Kenny G ‘jazz’.

…But I was horribly disappointed.  It sounded like a child randomly pounding on a piano, with no melody or harmonies, no consistent rhythm, nothing to give it purpose or direction… [Dreaming; p 47]

Hmmm.  Well, no, it doesn’t appear he likes avant garde jazz.  He just prefers his theology that way.

In any case, this thought process led me to anthologize the Bill Johnson posts here on the site.  How did I come to that?  Well, record companies tend to anthologize the works of artists in order to acquire a larger audience and hence boost sales.  Of course, I’m not looking to make any money, but I do want this information disseminated to the largest audience possible.

Initially I considered titling the post facetiously “The Best of Bill Johnson” but I didn’t want to potentially confuse or mislead lest anyone think I’ve now begun to promote Johnson’s material as if I was like-minded.  Alternatively, I pondered borrowing a ploy by RCA Victor used on a Jefferson Airplane compilation titled “The Worst of…”, but I thought some readers would find it too negative or offensive.  So, it was decided to use the more neutral “anthology” with the parenthetical “So Far” a nod to the title of a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young compilation of the same name.

Without further ado, here are the articles (so far):

–  Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, part I which also discusses portions of his book When Heaven Invades Earth in which Johnson discloses his kenotic Jesus and his assertion that anyone against the “anointing” (as he defines it) is anti-christ.

–  part II shows how close he comes to the Kenyon/Hagin ‘Jesus died spiritually’ heresy in his proof-texts for the ‘born again Jesus’ in addition to his view that Jesus received the “Baptism of/in the Holy Spirit” in the Jordan, plus his (and other) Latter Rain and Manifest Sons of God leanings seemingly not too far from New Age ideology.

–  Johnson and other quotes on Dominionism in The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part II which questions just which kingdom is being promoted.

Speaking of paradox: can someone resolve the apparent contradiction inherent in Jim Goll’s foretelling prophecy of Johnson’s acquisition of a library related to someone with the name ‘Roberts’ given that Johnson had already purchased Roberts Liardon’s library the year before?:

–  Bill Johnson’s Library Mandate – a “direct from headquarters” mandate.

–  Update: Bill Johnson’s Library Mandate

–  Johnson endorsing Bob Jones: Bethel hosting a “prophetic conference” featuring Bob Jones.

–  Bill Johnson and the Sign of Jonah“If signs and wonders don’t follow you, follow them until they follow you.”

–  Signs That Make You Wonder: “…it’s just increasing all kinds of manifestations. It’s the angelic realm; it’s just the supernatural breaking into this one: the gold and the oil and the wind. We’ve been having gusts of wind that just come out of nowhere. And, uh, ya know, it’s all good. It’s all signs that make you wonder…”

–  Open Challenge to Bill Johnson/Bethel Supporters regarding a specific quote in When Heaven Invades Earth:  “Jesus lived His earthly life with human limitations. He laid his [sic] divinity aside as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin, and then die in the place of mankind for sin. This would be essential in His plan to redeem mankind. The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless), and had to be spotless, (without sin)” [When Heaven Invades Earth, 2003, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 79].

–  Another Challenge to Bill Johnson/Bethel Supportersregarding a Johnson tweet (which also occurs in other material). Jesus is returning for a bride whose body is in equal proportion to her head.”

–  More in depth look at Johnson’s Kenosis: “…Jesus gave Himself to be crucified.  He did not raise Himself from the dead…His job was to give His life to die.  The Father raised Him by the Spirit…”

–  Kris Vallotton and the Mantle of Jesus Christ/Bill Johnson on Corporate Anointing:“…Not just the mantle of William Branham, how about the mantle of Jesus Christ?  That’s even a bigger one there…”

–  By Whose Power Does Bill Johnson Heal?: “What have I done? This guy thinks he hobbled in here…wait until he tries to walk out!”

–  Greater works than Jesus?: …Many theologians seek to honor the works of Jesus as unattainable, which is religion, fathered by unbelief…

–  A personal testimony about Bethel’s influence

In keeping with the tradition in the recording industry which induces fans to acquire anthologies even if they have all the artist’s previous work, I’ll close with a rather ‘electrifying’ quote of Bill Johnson not used in any previous CrossWise article taken from Face to Face with God:

I went from being in a dead sleep to being wide-awake in a moment.  Unexplainable power began to pulsate through my body.  It was as if I had been plugged into a wall socket with a thousand volts of electricity flowing through my body.  An extremely powerful being seemed to have entered the room, and I could not function in His presence.  My arms and legs shot out in silent explosions as this power was released through my hands and feet.  The more I tried to stop it, the worse it got.  I soon discovered that this was not a wrestling match I was going to win.  I heard no voice, nor did I have any visions.  This was the most overwhelming experience of my life.  It was raw power.  It was God.  He had come in response to the prayer I had been praying. [p 8]

I’m thinkin’ Johnson may prefer electric jazz…

Kenosis, Christology, and Bill Johnson, Part II

Part I of this article discusses the various Kenosis theories and provides good background information, if rather technical, for part II which will focus on other Christological errors potentially influencing kenosis or derived from kenosis doctrines, the importance of adhering to the tenets of ecumenical creeds in upholding orthodox Christology, and how all these things relate to the doctrine of Bill Johnson.

Other Christological Errors Potentially Related to Kenosis

Gregg R. Allison, in his Historical Theology, cites both Friedrich Schleiermacher and Albert Schweitzer (Schweitzer was apparently one of Schleiermacher’s followers,71 along with Thomasius72) as revisionists with respect to the historical Jesus Christ of the Incarnation,73 humanizing Him at the expense of His deity.74  It seems possible that Schleiermacher, Kant, Hegel and other progressive liberals from the 18th and 19th centuries75 may have paved the way for the proponents of the various kenosis theories and their adherents starting around the mid 19th century and continuing to today.76

New Ager/occultist Alice A. Bailey, who furthered the work begun by the 19th century Theosophy of Helena P. Blavatsky, cites Dr. Schweitzer approvingly in her 1937 treatise of esoteric Christology titled From Bethlehem to Calvary.77  Bailey’s explanation of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness by Satan provides an example of her heretical Christology which, while not kenotic – the belief is that Jesus was a man (with latent divinity like all men) who had the Christ spirit descend upon Him at Baptism and subsequently leave Him prior to the Crucifixion,78 similar to the belief of first century proto-Gnostic Cerinthus79,80 – suffers, among other serious issues, from some of the same inherent problems as some forms of kenosis:

“…Was it possible that Christ in reality could be tempted, and if so, could He have fallen into sin? Did He meet these temptations as the omnipotent Son of God, or did He meet them as a man and therefore subject to temptation? …What really took place in the wilderness?  For what purpose are we permitted to share with Him in this experience?” 81

Bailey continues, disparaging the Athanasian Creed82 in the process.  In the original text, she refers to it in a footnote signified in the following with an asterisk (*):

“Many such questions arise in the mind of the intelligent man, and many have been the commentaries written to prove the particular point of each writer.  It is not the purpose of this book…to define the times when Christ was functioning as a man, and when He was functioning as the Son of God.  Some believe He was simultaneously both, and was ‘very God of very God,’* and yet essentially and utterly human at the same time.  People make these statements, but they are apt to forget the implications.  They affirm with decision their point of view, and omit to carry their attitude to a logical conclusion.  The inference is that we are allowed to know about the temptation in order to teach us, as human beings, a needed lesson; let us therefore study the story from the angle of Christ’s humanity, never forgetting that He had learned obedience to the divine spirit, the soul in man, and was in control of His body of manifestation.” 83

Bailey is cited here to illustrate both the importance of understanding proper Christology and as a potential example of historical error leading up to current Christological error.  Adherence to the ecumenical creeds which had established proper Christology in the early Church will help to minimize or alleviate these sorts of errors about the person of Christ in the Christian Church of today.

     71 Berkhof, p 316.  Berkhof hints that Schweitzer has followed in Schleiermacher’s footsteps, at least to a degree.
72 Hodge, Vol II, p 453.  Hodge specifically cites Thomasius as a “general disciple” of Schleiermacher.
73 Allison, pp 382-83.  By mentioning Schleiermacher and Schweitzer together in the same sentence, it may be assumed the author intends a strong connection.
74 Berkhof, p 316
75 Lutzer, Erwin W. The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians. 1998, Kregel, Grand Rapids, MI; p 35.  Lutzer specifically mentions Kant who “believed in a human Christ” and Schweitzer who “believed in a Christ who was essentially insane.”  He also mentions Rudolf Bultmann who denied the pre-existence of Christ [Craig A. Evans, The Historical Jesus: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies, Volume I. 2004, Rutledge, London, UK; p 328].
76 Hodge, Vol II, pp 453, 440-54.  Hodge cites others influenced by Schleiermacher while identifying Schleiermacher’s pantheistic doctrine and associated aberrant Christology and anthropology.  My working hypothesis is that 18th and 19th century liberalism in general including Schleiermacher, Kant, Hegel and his dialectic process, Darwinism, et cetera, continued to barrage the Church and has resulted in the state of the church today.  Taken together, these liberals may have influenced society to the extent they helped enable various underground esoteric doctrines to flourish in the late 19th and into the 20th century (such as Rosicrucianism) and directly or indirectly lead to Theosophy (a confluence of esoteric doctrines throughout the centuries which may have influenced Latter Rain) and New Thought (which definitely influenced Word of Faith via Kenyon [cf. McConnell, D. R. A Different Gospel. 1988, Hendrickson, Peabody, MA] ), which may have, in turn, led to various errors of today.
77 Bailey, Alice A.  From Bethlehem to Calvary. Copyright 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis, NY, 4th paperback edition, 1989; Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; pp 102-03, 111, 160-61, 168, 213, 228, 279
78 Bailey, pp 187-189, 194
79 Bercot, David W. A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. 1998 (3rd printing Nov 2000), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 91
80 Hodge, Vol II, p 400
81 Bailey, pp 107-08.  Emphasis added.
82 Theopedia. Athanasian Creed. <http://www.theopedia.com/Athanasian_Creed> as accessed 06/15/11
83 Bailey, p 108.  Underlining from emphasis in original; bolding added.

Credence for Ecumenical Creeds as Basis for Christology

Historically, councils were called to establish creeds (statements of beliefs) in order to codify specific truths as borne out in Scripture while simultaneously refuting specific errors.  The ecumenical creeds – those accepted by the Church catholic, as in universal, and not merely the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) but to also include Protestant and Eastern Orthodox churches – have largely been uncontested over the centuries as to their veracity, or accuracy, compared to Scripture until the 19th century84 with the various kenosis doctrines.  Oliver Crisp, in his book God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology, puts the historical Christian creeds in perspective:

“…Creeds are not merely a means to making dogmatic sense of, say, the Incarnation.  They are – just as fundamentally – a means of confessing faith in the Christ to whom the creeds bear witness, as they are attempts to make sense of the gospel accounts of who Christ is.  This underlines the fact that the creeds of the Church, and the ecumenical creeds in particular, have several functions that run together: they bear witness to the gospel in Scripture, they tease out aspects of the doctrine of the gospel, and because they do this, they serve as doxological and liturgical purpose in the life of the Church as a means by which Christians may affirm what it is they believe, and what it is that holds the church together.’ 85

A proper view of Christ is essential to the Christian faith.  For a given teacher to put forth a doctrine which is at odds with the ecumenical councils is to put said teacher at odds with historical orthodox Christianity and, as a potential consequence, in the realm or vicinity of heresy.

Crisp continues stating that the ecumenical creeds which asserted proper Christology are “theologically binding” because they are “dogmatic reflection upon Scripture by the undivided Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”86   While noting that the creeds are “not infallible guides,”87 Crisp strongly believes the ecumenical councils have “not…in fact canonized substantive errors”88 due to Holy Spirit influence.

In an interview discussing the book God Incarnate, Crisp reiterated the authority of Scripture over ‘tradition’ while defining what that tradition is:

“…I think Scripture is the norming norm, the bedrock of all Christian theology.  The ‘tradition’ consists in a cluster of different, subordinate norms, such as the catholic [universal] creeds, confessional creeds, confessional statements (e.g. Westminster Confession) and the works of particular theologians.  But these are all subordinate to the Word of God.” 89

Of the four ecumenical councils embraced by the Church catholic (universal) which include Christological discussions (Nicea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Ephesus in 431, and Chalcedon in 451), the Council of Chalcedon is the most recent and most definitive.  Here’s a modern English translation of the Chalcedonian Creed:

“Following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in divinity and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a rational soul and body; of one substance [homoousios] with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the virgin, the God-bearer [theotokos]; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence [hypostasis], not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ.” 90

In his Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology, Thomas Oden affirms the importance of ecumenical Christology in general91 and notes how adherence to the ecumenical creeds will aid in avoiding Christological error.92

“…The major tendencies to heretical distortion in the two-natures are these: it runs the risk of inordinately divinizing the human, humanizing the divine, or dualizing the one person.  Keeping these factors in due balance is the challenge of classic Christian teaching or Christology.” 93

Cognizant of the inherent mystery of the Incarnation and the fact that it’s not “fully comprehensible to objective analysis,” but rather it’s “a divine gift for joyful contemplation,”94 he states:

“…Modesty of expression remains a radical intellectual requirement in the presence of this incomparable Person…” 95

In other words, Oden’s point was that we should not try to go beyond Scripture in attempting to define the mystery of the Incarnation.  Even the Apostle Paul did not fully fathom the person of Jesus Christ:

16 Beyond all comprehension, the mystery of godliness is great:
                        He appeared in a body,
                            was vindicated by the Spirit,
                        was seen by angels,
                            was preached from the nations,
                        was believed on in the world,
                            was taken up in glory. [I Timothy 3:16, NIV 1984]

Recognizing the continuing assault on Christology, Martin Luther once commented, “I know nothing about the Lord Christ that the devil has failed to attack.”96

     84 Allison, pp 377, 381
85 Crisp, Oliver D. God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology. 2009, T&T Clark, London, UK; p 13
86 Crisp, God Incarnate. p 13
87 Crisp, God Incarnate. p 14
88 Crisp, God Incarnate. p 14.  See explanation in Crisp’s footnote 10
89 Davies, Guy. Exiled Preacher Blog. “An Interview with Oliver Crisp” March 24, 2010 <http://exiledpreacher.blogspot.com/2010/05/interview-with-oliver-crisp.html>; Answer to Davies’ 5th question.  As accessed 06/15/11
90 Allison, pp 376-77.  Footnote reads, “Creed of Chalcedon, in Schaff 2.62-63; Bettenson, 56.”  I assume Bettenson translated to modern English from Phillip Schaff’s 3-volume The Creeds of Christendom.
91 Oden, Thomas C. Classic Christianity: A Systematic Theology. 1992 (2009), HarperCollins, New York, NY; p 306.  This printing is a single-volume condensed version of three separate volumes.
92 Oden, p 307
93 Oden, p 306
94 Oden, p 307
95 Oden, p 307
96 Oden, p 307.  Quotes from Martin Luther’s Table Talk. 1.269

Bill Johnson’s Kenotic Concept

All the preceding background brings us to the Christological doctrine of Bill Johnson which illustrates the peril of not using ecumenical creeds as a basis for proper Christology, as he clearly teaches kenosis.  However, the questions are: 1) which type; and, 2) can his teachings be harmonized into one consistent doctrine with respect to kenosis?  Here are two quotes from his book When Heaven Invades Earth:

“…He laid his [sic] divinity aside* as He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin…The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless), and had to be spotless, (without sin).” 97

“Jesus Christ said of Himself, ‘The Son can do nothing.’…He had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever! …He performed miracles, wonders, and signs, as a man in right relationship to God…not as God.” 98

The asterisk (*) in the first quote denotes the place in which Johnson originally had a footnote in referring to Philippians 2:5-7 – the very Scripture kenotics use in justifying the theory.  Since God Himself is, by definition, supernatural, then by the wording in the quotes, Johnson appears to be teaching ontological kenosis as Jesus was “powerless” with “NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever.”  This is as opposed to functionalist kenosis which maintains that Jesus had all His divine attributes, but rather chose not to exercise some of them.  Had Johnson stated something like, “He chose not to exercise any of His supernatural capabilities,” then he could be construed of intending functionalist kenosis instead. However, as pointed out in part I, claiming it was the Holy Spirit who performed Christ’s miracles rather than Jesus Himself is both “ not conventional”99 and not Biblical even though this claim is growing in charismatic circles.100

Here’s another quote, this time from his book The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind:

“…Jesus had no ability to heal the sick.  He couldn’t cast out devils, and He had no ability to raise the dead.  He said of Himself in John 5:19, ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself.’  He had set aside His divinity.  He did miracles as man in right relationship with God because He was setting forth a model for us…Jesus so emptied Himself that He was incapable of doing what was required of Him by the Father – without the Father’s help…” 101

Once again, this suggests ontological kenosis as Jesus was both “incapable” of performing and “had no ability” to perform miracles.  If, according to Johnson, Jesus Christ had merely chosen not to exercise His divine attributes as in functionalist kenosis, then He would still have the ability to perform miracles if He so desired.

Johnson references a portion of John 5:19 in the quote above and the one immediately preceding this one [by footnote 98].  Putting this verse in its proper context, however, shows that Jesus Himself had both the authority and the power (omnipotence) to raise the dead and give life apart from the Father (v 21) contrary to Johnson’s proof-texting above.  Andreas Kostenberger states, “He claimed not merely to be God’s instrument in raising other people, but to give life himself to whom he is pleased to give it.”102 [See Luke 23:43; John 6:70; 10:28-29; 11:1-44; 13:18; 15:16, 19.]  Once again, this argues against a functionalist kenotic interpretation.  Furthermore, this provides one more example illustrating that functionalist kenosis, in general, as not a viable, Biblical doctrine as Jesus Christ certainly displayed His omnipotence.

18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.  19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”

24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” [John 5:19-27, NKJV]

In verse 18, the Jews wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy since the claim that God was “His” Father was understood by the Jews that Jesus was equating Himself with the Father and hence claiming He was God also.103  In the rest of this passage of Scripture Jesus goes on to explain that He is, in fact, deity.104

Do we assume Jesus was only able to ‘give life’ post-Ascension?  The text clearly shows otherwise as Craig Keener explains in his well-regarded commentary on the Gospel of John.105  Going further to verse 25 and through to 27 is the indication that Jesus could grant life in the then present106 and that Jesus had life “in Himself” granted by the Father along with the authority to make judgment (vv 22-23 also).  Taking all this into account indicates, once again, that Jesus Christ not only could, but very likely did, perform other miracle workings apart from the Father or the Holy Spirit,107 contrary to Johnson.

     97 Johnson, Bill, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. 2003; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 79.  Asterisk replaces original footnote which is referenced on page 85 of Johnson’s book.  Emphasis added.
     98 Johnson, Bill, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles. 2005; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 29.  Underline for emphasis in original; last ellipsis as per original.  Bolding added for emphasis.  Johnson makes a specific footnote reference to John 5:19 in his book on p 35.
99 Crisp, Divinity and Humanity. p 25 [Tyndale; p 134]
100 Musick, Dan, Kenosis: Christ “emptied Himself”. “Christ’s Miracles Performed Only by the Holy Spirit?” <http://kenosis.info/index.shtml#Miracles> copyright 1997-2005; as accessed 06/15/11
101 Johnson, Supernatural Power. p 50.  Emphasis added.
102 Kostenberger, Andreas J. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: John. 2004 (4th printing July 2009), Baker, Grand Rapids, MI; p 187.  He is quoting from NIV 1984.
103 Kostenberger, pp 185-86
104 Kostenberger, pp 186-89
105 Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume One. 2003, 1st Softcover Ed, 2010, Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; pp 650-52.  Keener, agreeing with Kostenberger, states, “Like the Father, Jesus could give life (5:21; cf. 17:2); this made him act in a divine manner.”  Moreover, in a section titled “Jesus as Life-Giver in the Present and the Future (5:24-30)” Keener shows agreement.  He continues, “Jesus returns to the claim that the Father has authorized him to give life (5:21) with the image of realized eschatology implied by ‘passed from death to life’ (5:24); one already abides in death until believing in the one who sent Jesus, hence in Jesus’ delegated mission…”
106 Keener, pp 650-52.
107 Kostenberger, pp 187-89.  Kostenberger also points out that Jesus Christ provided eternal life during his earthly ministry referring to John 5:24 as “…one of the strongest affirmations of realized (inaugurated) eschatology in John’s Gospel.” [p 188] And, also, “Jesus claims that God granted him life in himself, a divine attribute” [p 189] illustrating clearly that Jesus both possessed and utilized divine attributes, contrary to Johnson’s claims.

Johnson’s View of How Jesus Received His Title/Name of Christ

In Johnson’s zeal to humanize Jesus Christ at the expense of His divinity, he goes even further with his kenosis doctrine.  He makes Jesus into a man indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the Incarnation who subsequently receives the ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’108 by the “Christ anointing”109 at His Baptism by John which provides Jesus the title/name of Christ.  In the following, brackets are inserted within the text for explanation:

Christ is not Jesus’ last name.  The word Christ means ‘Anointed One’ or ‘Messiah.’  It [Christ] is a title that points to an experience [Baptism].  It was not sufficient that Jesus be sent from heaven to earth with a title [Christ].  He had to receive the anointing [“Christ anointing” resulting in Christ title/name] in an experience [Baptism] to accomplish what the Father desired.

“The word anointing means to ‘smear.’  The Holy Spirit is the oil of God that was smeared [anointed] all over Jesus at His water baptism.  The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared [anointed] with the Holy Spirit [at Baptism].” 110

After reading this in the full context Johnson provides [and setting aside his horrendous portrayal of Jesus being “smeared all over with the Holy Spirit”], without adding or subtracting anything, the reader will understand that he is teaching that the “title” of Christ was received in “an experience” – referring to Baptism.  Furthermore, according to Johnson, the ‘name’ of Christ did not actually belong to Jesus’ until He was anointed, “smeared all over,” by the Holy Spirit at Baptism.  Logically, this means Jesus did not have the Christ ‘name’ or ‘title’ until this point, and, hence, could not rightfully be called “Jesus Christ” until then.  This implies Jesus was simply ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ and not “Jesus Christ” prior to Baptism which contradicts Luke 1:35/ 2:11 and other Scripture.   Yes, according to orthodoxy, Jesus Christ was anointed at Baptism which began His earthly ministry, but He already had the title of Christ prior to Baptism as He was proclaimed the Son of God before His birth [Luke 1:35] and referred to as “Christ the Lord” upon His birth [Luke 2:11].

The term Christ is used universally within orthodox Christianity indicating divinity111,112 [see Hebrews 13:8, 1:12/Psalm 102:27] as the Messiah must, by necessity, be deity in order to atone for our sins.  Jesus Christ, the Eternal Logos [John 1:1-18], was “from the beginning” [I John 1:1] and is the “Alpha and the Omega” [Rev 1:8, 1:17, 21:6, 22:13] and no one can rightly be called Christ except Jesus.  Berkhof states:

“There are especially five names [Jesus, Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, Lord] that…are partly descriptive of His natures, partly of His official position, and partly of the work for which He came into the world.”

“…Christ is the official…name of the Messiah…Christ was set up or appointed to His offices from eternity, but historically His anointing took place when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:35, and when He received the Holy Spirit, especially at the time of His baptism…It served to qualify Him for His great task…” 113 

Note that Berkhof explains that Christ was “eternally appointed” yet did not receive the anointing for His office until conception by the Holy Spirit [Luke 1:35; Matt 1:18-20].  This means that Jesus was the Christ at conception.  The angel Gabriel referred to Him as “Son of God” in Luke 1:35 and the angel in Luke 2:11 referred to Him as “Savior,” “Christ,” and “Lord.”  He was also understood to be the Messiah/Christ by Herod [Matt 2:3-4] and He was Immanuel, “God with us,” [Matt 1:22-23/Isaiah 7:14] from the moment of the virgin birth.  Moreover: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Heb 13:8 NIV 1984]  To claim, as Johnson does, that Jesus did not receive the name or title of Christ until Baptism is serious error.  Jesus Christ is the Eternal Logos made flesh [John 1:1-14].

Bill Johnson makes it clear that the “anointing” linked Jesus to the divine (hence, implying Jesus the person was not divine) and that this ‘linking’ provided the power necessary to perform the miraculous which corresponds with his two paragraphs above regarding when/how Jesus received His Christ title/name:

“…The anointing is what linked Jesus, the man, to the divine enabling Him to destroy the works of the devil.” 114

“To fulfill His mission, Jesus needed the Holy Spirit [anointing]….

“This anointing is what enabled Jesus to do only what He saw the Father do, and to say only what He heard the Father say.” 115

To state Jesus was ‘enabled’ by the Holy Spirit (at Baptism) implies, once again, that Jesus did not have omnipotent power of His own and is thus less than divine.  In Face to Face with God, Johnson goes into more detail emphasizing this “experience” as the ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit,’ while specifically referring to Jesus being ‘indwelled’ by the Holy Spirit prior to Baptism and that Jesus is our model in this regard.116  This next quote is following a reference in Johnson’s book to John 1:32 in which the Holy Spirit descended as a dove upon Jesus at His Baptism:

 “…Certainly this is not talking about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that was already in Jesus’s life.  This [Baptism] was the inauguration of Jesus’s ministry, and the Holy Spirit came to rest upon Him as a mantle of power and authority for that specific purpose.  But the fact that the Holy Spirit came to rest on Him is evidence of Jesus’s faithfulness to be perfectly trustworthy with the presence of God.  The same principle is true for us.

“The Holy Spirit lives in every believer, but He rests upon very few…” 117

The Holy Spirit ‘resting upon’ Jesus and others is Johnson’s vernacular for his version of the ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’ which is necessary to provide power for the miraculous.118  Stating that Jesus was “perfectly trustworthy with the presence of God” implies that Jesus was not God Himself but instead merely a “trustworthy” man faithful enough to ‘earn’ God’s continued “presence”.  Once again, this is indicative of ontological kenosis.  Also, Johnson is pointing out that we can receive the same “Christ anointing”,119 or “baptism in the Holy Spirit”120 as Jesus.121  He is more explicit below:

“…The outpouring of the Spirit comes to anoint the church with the same Christ anointing that rested upon Jesus in His ministry so that we might be imitators of Him…” 122

To reiterate: Jesus Christ is the Eternal Logos, the Word, the second person of the Trinity, made flesh [John 1:1-14]. Scripture does not indicate that the Word plus the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, were made flesh – the Incarnation was simply the Word made flesh.  As a contrast: Holy Spirit indwelled believers would not say “the Holy Spirit became flesh” in the new believer as that would be absurd.  Rather, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the already existing flesh of the newly saved individual.  On the other hand, the Logos acquired a human nature (not a human being) and dwelt among us [John 1:14].  At the Incarnation He did not subtract from His divine nature; He added to it.  As Berkhof affirms, “The pre-existent Son of God assumes human nature and takes to Himself human flesh and blood, a miracle that passes our limited understanding.”123

     108 Johnson, Bill Face to Face with God: The Ultimate Quest to Experience His Presence. 2007; Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL; pp 21-2
     109 Johnson, Face to Face. p 77
110 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79.  Underline from emphasis in original; bolding added for emphasis; bracketed comments added for explanation.
111 Grudem, pp 233-38, 543-554, 624-33
112 Berkhof, pp 91-5, 312-13, 356-66
113 Berkhof, pp 312-13, 312-15.
114 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79.  Emphasis added.
115 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 80.  Underline from emphasis in original.
116 Johnson, Face to Face. pp 77-80
117 Johnson, Face to Face. pp 21-22.  Emphasis added.
118 Johnson, Face to Face. p 79
119 Johnson, Face to Face. p 77
120 Johnson, Face to Face. p 79
121 Johnson, Face to Face. pp 78-79
122 Johnson, Face to Face. p 77.  Emphasis added.
123 Berkhof, p 333

Johnson Contradicts His Kenosis by Affirming Jesus Christ’s Deity?

With the following, a paragraph at the start of chapter 9 in Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth, he appears to affirm Jesus Christ’s full deity:

“For hundreds of years the prophets spoke of the Messiah’s coming.  They gave over 300 specific details describing Him.  Jesus fulfilled them all!  The angels also gave witness to His divinity when they came with a message for the shepherds: ‘For there is born to you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Nature itself testified to the arrival of the Messiah with the star that led the wise men…’ 124

Does the above quote show that Johnson affirms Jesus Christ’s full deity and thereby contradict his kenosis teachings above?  Or, alternatively, does this show that Bill Johnson is actually teaching a very poorly articulated functionalist kenosis rather than an ontological kenosis?  The key is the rest of this paragraph:

“…Yet with this one statement, ‘Unless I do the works of the Father, do not believe me,’* Jesus put the credibility of all these messengers on the line.  Their ministries would have been in vain without one more ingredient to confirm who He really was.  That ingredient was miracles.” 125

Was the archangel Gabriel pacing the heavens hoping that Jesus would perform miracles to prove He really was the Messiah, the Christ, and thus prove Gabriel to be true?  Certainly not.  The asterisk (*) above refers to John 10:37 in a footnote in the original quoted passage.  In this Scripture Jesus Christ was not making some sort of all-inclusive statement “putting the credibility of all these messengers on the line;” He was addressing the unbelieving Jews.  Johnson is mixing Biblical contexts here.  However, note that John 10:37 is pointing out that they should believe He is the Son of God by virtue of the works/miracles.  Jesus’ point is that, though they do not believe who He claims He is, they should believe by the miracles.  Johnson proof-texts this in his attempts to ‘show’ that Jesus was not the Christ/Messiah until His Baptism after which, of course, He performed the miraculous works having been “enabled” by the “anointing.”

So, it would seem the above paragraph can be perfectly harmonized with the rest of Johnson’s ontologically kenotic teachings.  He is unambiguously clear in his basic doctrine that Jesus was merely “a man in right relationship to God” who “had no ability to heal the sick,” “couldn’t cast out devils,” and “had no ability to raise the dead”126 except by virtue of the ‘enabling’ by the “Christ anointing,”127 occurring at Baptism.  With Johnson’s assertion that, “The name Jesus Christ implies that Jesus is the One smeared with the Holy Spirit128  within its original context (see above), he makes it apparent that Baptism is the point in which Jesus receives the name of Christ/Messiah.  Consequently, according to this teaching, it follows that since Jesus did not have the name of Christ, and, hence was not yet Christ before Baptism, the angels’ and the other messengers’ words were contingent upon Jesus ‘proving Himself’ by performing the miraculous thereby showing Him to be the “Anointed One.”  Therefore, the first part of the quote from chapter 9 is merely affirming Jesus’ future “title” or name of Christ/Messiah at Baptism instead of a definitive statement that Jesus was the Christ, or Messiah, at the virgin birth.  Furthermore, Johnson’s quote is not necessarily proclaiming Christ’s deity since he asserted that it was “the anointing” which “linked Jesus, the man, to the divine.”129

To further explain by way of example I’ll make a statement: “Dr. F. F. Bruce was born on 12 October, 1910.”  This is 100% correct; however, Bruce did not have his doctorate bestowed upon him until later, of course, as he was obviously not born with his degree.130  Similarly, one could interpret (incorrectly, of course) that Luke 2:11, the verse referenced in the first part of the above quote, is merely affirming Jesus as the Christ at some point in the future rather than at the virgin birth.

     124 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 97
125 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 97. Emphasis in original.
126 Johnson, Supernatural Power. pp 29, 50
127 Johnson, Face to Face. pp 21-22, 77-79
128 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79
129 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79. Emphasis added.
130 Wikipedia. F.F. Bruce.  F.F. Bruce biography <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._F._Bruce>; par 1; as accessed 06/15/11

Eternal Implications of Johnson’s Kenosis

Bill Johnson claims Jesus did not raise Himself at the Resurrection, contrary to John 2:19/10:17-18 and other Scriptures.  From his sermon at Bethel on February 27, 2011:

“…Jesus gave Himself to be crucified.  He did not raise Himself from the dead…His job was to give His life to die.  The Father raised Him by the Spirit…” 131

He stated the same basic thing in answering a question on his Facebook page in February of this year just prior to the date of the sermon above.  This illustrates that Johnson carried ontological kenosis all the way to the Resurrection which would necessarily include the Cross.  It would appear Jesus could not raise Himself from the dead since He was a “powerless” lamb on the Cross [see above for full context]:

“…The sacrifice that could atone for sin had to be a lamb, (powerless)…” 132

Being “powerless” means Jesus lacked the divine power in Himself necessary to provide proper Atonement which is explicit heresy.  Insufficient Atonement means no salvation for the sinner.  No salvation means no eternal life!  As Erwin Lutzer asserts: “…The real question is whether Christ is capable of being the Savior of mankind;”133 and, “If Christ is not God, then God has not saved us…”134

“…Only an incarnate Christ who is fully God qualifies to be Savior.” 135

According to Scripture, Jesus Christ raised Himself [John 2:19], He was raised by the Father [Gal 1:1; Acts 5:29-31], He was raised by the Holy Spirit [Rom 8:11], and, He was raised by God [Acts 2:24; Rom 4:24; Col 2:12], beautifully illustrating the interrelationship of the Trinity.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) contrasts mankind’s eternity, which will commence at a definite point some time in the future, with that of God’s which is infinite with no beginning point.  Of course, according to orthodox Christianity, both man, upon resurrection in his new glorified body [I Corinthians 15:50-54], and God have no termination point in the eternal realm.

“Man eschatologically and God ontologically experience an endless duration of time; both experience a non-terminating sequence of events; both participate in eternity.

“…[A] person’s eternity is bounded on one side by its beginning at a point in time…” 136

With this in mind, here’s Bill Johnson in a statement on his Facebook page on 3/21/2011:

“Jesus was (and is) God.  Eternally God.  That never changed.  But he chose to live with self imposed restriction while living on earth in the flesh – as a man.  In doing so He defeated sin, temptation, the powers of darkness as a man.  We inherit His victory – it was for us.  He never sinned!”

So, with this statement, does Johnson once and for all prove that he believes Jesus was fully divine during the Incarnation, i.e., is his kenosis functionalist rather than ontological?   Taken as a discrete statement apart from the rest of Johnson’s doctrine, this could potentially be labeled as functionalist kenosis [although the "as a man" part is problematic].  However, when this statement is added to the entire corpus of Johnson’s written works, sermons, etc., it merely affirms Jesus Christ’s eternality as God; but, it does not prove the belief in Jesus’ earthly existence as God.  As shown above, Johnson explicitly disavows Jesus Christ’s full incarnational deity on many occasions.  It should be pointed out that to affirm Jesus Christ as eternally God yet claim He “set aside His divinity”137 during the Incarnation is self-contradictory.

However, can the above quote be harmonized as a complete, non-contradictory statement in and of itself and in relation to the rest of Johnson’s teachings on the subject of kenosis?  It really depends on how Johnson defines and interprets the word “eternally” and how he views eternity in relation to the temporal, created realm.  Do they intersect in any way or are they wholly separate from one another?

If Johnson understands eternity as that in which there is no past, present, or future as opposed to the temporal realm which, of course, does have a past, present and future, then he can make the statement above and not be contradicting his particular doctrine of kenosis.  In fact, it would be necessary to keep his ontological kenosis teaching from falling into self-contradiction.  To explain: By simple logic, Jesus must have been God pre-Incarnation in order to have possessed the divinity He had “set aside.”  Similarly, Jesus was God post-Incarnation as there’s no evidence Johnson has ever stated the contrary and has inferred, if not outright stated, Christ’s deity post-Ascension (or, perhaps post-Resurrection) in his teachings.138

To rephrase: By definition, ontological kenosis in general, with all divine attributes – or at least all the ‘omni’ traits – laid aside when the Logos became flesh, implies, or at least potentially implies, a break in the eternality of the Son of God.  That is, a logical conclusion of this doctrine is that Jesus Christ would leave the eternal realm at the Incarnation and return again upon Ascension (or, perhaps, at the Resurrection) since unbounded eternality is a divine attribute.  So, if Johnson believes the eternal realm is wholly separate and distinct from the temporal, then he could maintain that Jesus is and was eternally God but not temporally divine – and, hence, not God during the Incarnation – and, thus, keep his version of ontological kenosis consistent and non-contradictory.139

Going back a bit to the first set of quotes of Bill Johnson used above, and, adding more of the context, we can see more of this concept in evidence regarding the eternal realm as wholly separate from the temporal with no intersection:

“…He had NO supernatural capabilities whatsoever!  While He is 100 percent God, He chose to live with the same limitations that man would face once He [sic] was redeemed.  He made that point over and over again…He performed miracles, wonders and signs, as a man in right relationship to God…not as God” 140

Yes, according to Johnson, Jesus is/was God eternally – just not during the Incarnation as He performed miracles as a man, not as God since He was not actually God during the Incarnation.

From an orthodox Christian perspective, God exists unrelated to time or anything material and is therefore not constrained by these.  God created both.  Did eternity pause or cease during the Incarnation?  Of course not.  Chafer states:

“…Whatever time may be and whatever its relation to eternity, it must be maintained that no cessation of eternity has occurred or will.  God’s mode of existence remains unchanged.  Time might be thought of as something superimposed upon eternity were it not that there is ground for question whether eternity consists of a succession of events, as is true of time.  The consciousness of God is best conceived as being an all-inclusive comprehension at once, covering all that has been or will be.  The attempt to bring time with its successions into a parallel with eternity is to misconceive the most essential characteristic of eternal things.” 141

There are apparently varying understandings of eternity and how the temporal realm relates to the eternal among theologians.  It is beyond the scope of this article to get into a full discussion on the subject of eternity; however, Matthew Henry’s words help put the subject in perspective:

“…Should we ask why God made the world no sooner, we should but darken counsel by words without knowledge; for how could there be sooner or later in eternity?” 142

     131 “ewenhoffman” Maintaining the crosswalk- sermon of the week Feb 27th 2011. <htt6://ewenhuffman.podbean.com/2011/03/01/maintaining-the-crosswalk-sermon-of-the-week-feb-27th-2011/> 16:45-17:00.  Bolding added.  As accessed 6/15/11
    132 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79. See full context at quote referenced by footnote 97.
133 Lutzer, Doctrines That Divide. p 33
134 Lutzer, Doctrines That Divide. p 34
135 Lutzer, Doctrines That Divide. p 36
136 Bromiley, G. W., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Volume Two. 1982 (1988 reprint), Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; p 162.  First published 1915.
137 Johnson, Supernatural Power. p 50
138 I’ve not seen any quotes to the contrary; and, his Facebook quote affirms current deity.  Further, the quote referenced below in footnote 140 confirms present tense deity.
139 This view is not without precedent as A. B. Bruce refers to a variation in The Humiliation of Christ in quoting Ebrard (as in Chafer as quoted in part I at footnote 22), “The Logos, in assuming flesh, exchanged the form of God, that is, the eternal manner of being, for the form of man, that is, the temporal manner of being.”
140 Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth. p 29.  Underline from emphasis in original; bolding added for my own emphasis.  The “He” identified by “sic” is rather curious – probably a typographical error, however, as written it seems as though it was Christ who was redeemed.
141 Chafer, Vol. VII, pp 141-42
142 Henry, M. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume 1. 1991 (8th printing 2006), Hendrickson, USA; p 2

Concluding Remarks

Like some others before him, Bill Johnson refuses to adhere to orthodox Christian teaching concerning the person of Jesus Christ as exemplified in the Chalcedonian Creed.  He denies that Christ possessed His divine attributes during the Incarnation because “Jesus did everything as a man, laying aside His divinity in order to become a model for us.”143  While Johnson affirms that Jesus Christ is eternally God, this does not negate his teachings that Jesus had “so emptied Himself that He was incapable of doing what was required of Him by the Father – without the Father’s help…”144 during the entirety of the Incarnation to the point of not being able to raise Himself at the Resurrection.  It is certainly self-contradictory to assert that Jesus is eternally God and yet had no divine attributes during the Incarnation.   But this is a part of Johnson’s overall doctrine.

On the other hand, when filtering Bill Johnson’s seemingly orthodox statements affirming Jesus Christ’s deity through the ontologically kenotic lens of the rest of his teachings, these statements can be harmonized into one mostly, if not totally, non-contradictory doctrine with respect to kenosis.  This is not to say that some of Bill Johnson’s teachings do not contradict Scripture as, of course, they clearly do.

In considering the entire corpus of Bill Johnson’s teachings we seem to have the Logos, the Word, divested of His ‘omni’ attributes, His impeccability (inability to sin – note the last sentence of his Facebook comment above), His immutability (changeless perfection), and perhaps other divine attributes, having ‘laid these aside’ in order to live His earthly existence as a man who was subsequently successful in living a sinless life and thereby providing an example to mankind.  This necessitated the second person of the Trinity leaving the eternal realm at the Incarnation; however, He re-attained His full deity upon Ascension (or, perhaps the Resurrection) as He reentered eternity.

In any case, whether one believes the entirety of Johnson’s teachings is hopelessly self-contradictory or whether one accepts that it can be harmonized as ontological kenosis throughout, the fact remains that certain aspects of his teachings are unambiguously ontologically kenotic.  This is explicit heresy.

If Johnson ‘merely’ intends functionalist kenosis instead (with its teaching that the Word made flesh retained all divine attributes but the Holy Spirit performed all Christ’s miracles and all ‘omni’ functions and possibly other divine functions), he has many very poorly worded passages in his books, sermons, etc. which need correction or clarification.  However, even a functionalist kenosis account such as this suffers from a debilitating problem (in addition to the fact that it denies immutability): it violates Scripture [John 5:24; John 2:19, 10:17-18, etc.] and it necessarily precludes the Word made flesh from upholding the cosmos [cf. Colossians 1:16-17; Heb 1:3] via the so-called extra calvinisticum [aka extra catholicum].

To amend these works to bring his Christology up to Christian orthodoxy would be a monumental task for sure; but, it all depends on how much he really loves the truth.  Everyone makes mistakes; however, the extent to which individuals are willing to correct those mistakes is the mark of a true teacher who reveres both God and Scripture and who cares about his flock.  A case in point regarding the correct way to respond to mistakes is illustrated in the following taken from a 2002 DVD by R. C. Sproul:

“…Just this week I got the second letter from somebody that read my book Renewing Your Mind which is now out in its third title, third edition.  The last edition of which was reworked, brought up to date by an editor at the publishing house.  And, after they did it they sent it to me – after they made their changes – and asked me to give the final corrections and proofs, which I did.  Hastily.  And I missed something that somebody who read it wrote to me and said, ‘Did you? – I can’t believe it.  You teach the Kenotic heresy.’ Because on one of the pages in that book it has me saying that in the Incarnation, Jesus laid aside His divine nature.  I saw that; I almost fainted.  I called the president of the publishing house, ‘This must be my fault.  I didn’t catch that.’ ‘But,’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t say that on the worst day of my life.’  And, I said, ‘What can we do?’  And, you know what he did?  He pulled every single copy that they had in inventory off the shelves and reprinted it to correct that error.” 145

To continually refer to Jesus Christ as merely “a man in right relationship with God,”146 as Johnson insists throughout his works, at the expense of deity, does our Lord and Savior much disservice.  Even the decidedly non-Christian first century Jewish historian Josephus paid Him more reverence:

“Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works – a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.  He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” 147

Amen!

     143 Johnson, Bill, Strengthen Yourself in the Lord. 2007, Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 26
144 Johnson, Supernatural Power. p 50
145 Sproul, R.C. The Mystery of the Trinity. DVD 2002, Ligonier Ministries, Sanford, FL
146 Johnson, Supernatural Power. p 50
147 Josephus, Flavius, W. Whitson, The Works of Josephus Complete and Unabridged: New Updated Edition. 1987 (22nd printing June 2009), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; p 480.  Emphasis added.

The Use of Loaded Language in Hyper-Charismaticism

[This is an excellent article with thought provoking observations.  It was initially posted on a blog which is now inaccessible for unknown (by me) reasons.  I have a suspicion that the author wishes to remain anonymous; however, I could not in good conscience reproduce this and put my name to it – even if I reworded it – as it is something I just would not have thought about or researched on my own.  With this in mind, I will attribute this to “anonymous.”  I’ve made some minor changes from the original, including the title, omitting one sentence which does not detract from the article (evidenced by an ellipse (…)) and updating the link contained therein.  I’ve also added the term “hyper-charismaticism” or “hyper-charismatic” in parentheses.] 

I want to begin this post by stating clearly that this is not going to be a theological discussion per se. It is primarily going to be the discussion of a sociological phenomenon that has been observed through the study of prisoners of war and those involved in cult movements. This post was prompted by the nearly universal lack of reasoning and independent thinking skills of those who continue to post on the blog in favor of the modern prophets (hyper-charismatics). This is one of the many parallels between the modern prophetic movement (hyper-charismaticism) and the world of the cults.

I am convinced that one of the primary reasons for this is the continual use of “loaded language” within the movement.

For those who may be unfamiliar with this term, please allow me to give a very brief and extremely oversimplified history. Robert Lifton did extensive study on the “reprogramming” techniques used by the Chinese on prisoners of war and other political prisoners. He identified several key elements that were nearly universal that were able to bring about “thought reform”. Later, Margaret Thaler Singer, Steven Hassan, and Ronald Enroth built on and modified Lifton’s model as they noticed many of the same techniques being used in cults and spiritually abusive groups to bring about a “group think” among their adherents.

One of these techniques is the use of “loaded language”. Loaded language involves a couple of practices. First, it involves the use of words and phrases that become a unique language to the members of the group itself. (See the International House of Prayer (IHOP) glossary of terms for an example.  This is only a partial list.)  These catch phrases or slogans are laced throughout the teaching ministry of the group.  This language is difficult for those outside the movement to comprehend. In fact, I would submit that many of the members themselves would have an extremely difficult time giving any precise definition to these catch phrases as well. But it goes further. 

Loaded language also has a thought-terminating effect on the individuals who use them…They are a type of mental boundary. They provide easy, simplistic answers to issues and questions. The main purpose they serve within the group is to stifle thoughtful inquiry. These clichés become so ingrained in the adherents’ mental processes that they are accepted without question or reservation and are advanced in knee-jerk fashion when any challenge to the group’s belief arises.

I have become convinced, primarily through the different members of the apostolic/prophetic (hyper-charismatic) movement who have posted on the internet that this movement abounds with this thought-terminating, loaded language. Let me give some examples.

Immediately when someone outside the movement asks where a particular practice is found in the Scripture the loaded language kicks in.

This is part of the new wineskins that God is bringing forth in this generation.”

Or simply,

“God is doing a new thing.”  (Or some variation of the same statement.)

Press further and begin to point out that a particular belief or practice is unknown in church or Biblical history or is contrary to the character of God and you get more loaded language.

“God can’t be put in a box.”

“God is tearing down the religious spirit.”

“You are stuck in your tradition.”

Dare to challenge a particular leader or call into question their doctrine and one runs into more loaded language.

“We are not to judge.”

“Why are you coming against him?”

“Love covers but judgment uncovers.”

“If it is not of God it will fail but if it is of God you can’t stop it.”

Look at the fruit.”

“Touch not my anointed.”

“Truth is a person, not a doctrine.”

“Jesus is more important than doctrine.”

Ask them to evaluate their seemingly out of control behavior and you get….

“God offends the mind to reveal the heart.”

“God doesn’t want us living from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Push too hard and the ad hominem attacks begin.

“You have a jezebel spirit.”

“You have a religious spirit.”

“Satan is the accuser of the brethren.”

I could go on longer but you get the idea. There is a definite “group think” and “group speak” within the prophetic (hyper-charismatic) movement. The real issue to note however is that these phrases have VERY LITTLE REAL MEANING AND VIRTUALLY NO SUBSTANCE BEHIND THEM. Their sole function is to keep the person in the movement from taking a serious, thoughtful, reflective look at what they are involved in. It’s like mental insulation or blinders.

The real damage from loaded language, other than the fact that it keeps the user in the group, is that it stunts the adherents’ reasoning abilities. The person using the loaded language actually believes he/she has given an answer to the question raised!  However, they have really never dealt substantively with the issues.

As an interesting side note, while the group member staunchly proclaims his freedom, his thinking has actually become very rigid, i.e. “Everything our group does is automatically ok. Anyone who disagrees is a devil.”

These clichés must be challenged. It is important to try to force the members past the slogans to actually thinking for themselves again.  When this is done, the member may experience a “crisis of faith” in which he actually becomes open to looking at the Scriptures without the grid of the group.

Hyper-Charismatica versus True Christianity

Personal Testimony by mbaker

For many years after beginning my Christian life as a Southern Baptist, I converted to the charismatic church because several things about it appealed to me.  Unfortunately, while I met many committed wonderful Christians in the process, it was almost my downfall spiritually.   Except for the urgings of the Holy Spirit and some very good discernment websites, I would still be there now, thinking I possessed or could possess some ‘special’ revelation that others weren’t privy to, rather then being deceived by emotional appeals which had no biblical basis.

They say hindsight is 20-20.  In hindsight, of course, I see that because of some things that occurred in my life, like divorce, I no longer felt accepted by the mainstream church. Without a mate, I no longer felt I was personally a part of that body which seemed more about couples and ‘real’ families. For many years, I only felt connected to anyone through the mutual emotional highs I experienced in the charismatic church. For a while, they fulfilled this unmet emotional need in me for connection.

Unfortunately, I let my need for emotional validation through this connection with others interfere with the true foundational tenets of Christianity and it almost destroyed my faith. I do not want to make the same mistake and make this all about my testimony, although I suspect many reading here would readily identify with my personal journey.

What I do want to focus on is the experiential brand of Christianity, as promoted by the hyper-charismatics, as opposed to something that a lot of folks think is out of date and immaterial – the foundational tenets of the faith that Christ promoted. Those are things which will never change with time or popular religious fads.

The first clue was the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy that the leaders of hyper-charismatica seem to almost universally to express when questioned.  It has to do with not questioning anything that comes out of the mouths of the leadership, in this case being the five-fold ministry, or whatever leadership is in place. We were told ‘not to touch God’s anointed’ in any instance because to do so was committing a sin against God Himself.  I fell for that at first because I was raised to respect whatever came out of the pulpit as God’s truth.  However, blindly accepting that rule was my first mistake down the long road of deception I was to follow for years.

My second mistake was bowing to appeals for ‘unity’.  Unity of the brethren as the Bible speaks of it has nothing to do with blindly agreeing to anything our particular church leadership deems as correct, but the unity that comes from the belief in the essentials of the faith determined by God the Father, and the Christ His Son. All else is non-essential in that we can chose where we stand.  Some examples would be whether the spiritual gifts continue or have ceased since the advent of Christ, or the Calvinism versus Arminianism debate, and so on. It is important to know the difference between mere denominational preferences and biblical essentials.

The third thing was the emphasis upon ‘new’ revelation, vis a vis ‘prophecy’.  While I believe that we can receive true prophetic words, I know now that they do not constitute new ‘additions’ or changes to the Bible, as they are often presented in hyper-charismatic venues, such as the Elijah List.  They are not bought and sold either, as all God’s gifts are apportioned freely according to his grace, not determined by popular religious fads.

In short, to get back to the real truth I had to return to the basic truths of the Bible and to the honest emotional conviction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who only tells us what Jesus tells Him.  I can only urge anyone who is reading this who has any doubts about what they are being taught to check it out from several Bible based on theological sources which have God’s unchanging truth uppermost in mind.

It isn’t easy to admit we are wrong as Christians.  However, when we do, it is almost like a death in the family, because it is hard to tell others we were wrong, when we are supposed to be so right.

As a former charismatic, I knew many of the people I was personally connected with were very sincere Christians, yet we were all being deceived. It is hard on an otherwise intelligent person to admit that at first.  Then you become angry.  Then you wonder what was so wrong with you that you got yourself into it, or what need it was fulfilling in you.  Then finally you want to make sure others never get sucked into it.  It’s a real process that people need to be helped through. 

And, I’m thankful to have these blogs with individuals who go to the trouble to patiently explain step by step the false teachings and errors by using good Bible hermeneutics and solid theological resources and who do so without being dismissive or having a holier than thou attitude as these were invaluable resources in my journey back to God’s truth.

God bless.

[see also Testimony of a Former IHOP-KC Attendee: Stephanie]

Bill Johnson’s ‘Born Again’ Jesus, Part II

[It will probably be best to read or review part I before reading this article.  In addition, it is important to view The Kingdom of God is at Hand, Part II as this provides more insight into Bill Johnson’s theology and its possible New Age implications. Once again, I’m indebted to all those who’ve assisted.  Thank you!]

In part I, we discussed the Christology of Bill Johnson based on his words from a portion of his sermon series titled Jesus Is Our Model as well as quotes from other sources. In part II, we will look further into Johnson’s doctrine and compare it to some other aberrant theology. Here’s the same part of his sermon which was referenced in the first part:

“…Did you know that Jesus was born again? I asked… the first service and they said, “No.” But I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin.

In Hebrews 1 it says this, “For to which of the angels did he ever say, ‘You are my son. Today I have begotten you’?” And Acts 13 explains that: “God has fulfilled this for us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.” He was born through Mary the first time and through the Resurrection the second time. He was ‘born again.’” [1]

Word of Faith Connections and Disconnections

Kenneth E. Hagin, who borrows heavily from E. W. Kenyon, used the same verses as Johnson in speaking about a ‘born again’ Jesus. Hagin starts out in Hebrews 1:4-5 explaining how Jesus inherited His “more excellent Name”[2]. Then, just as Johnson does (or, perhaps the converse is more correct as it appears Johnson is copying Hagin), Hagin proceeds to Acts 13:33 to ‘explain’ how and when Jesus was born again:

“When was it that Jesus was begotten? When He was raised up! On that Resurrection morn!” [3]

So far this is practically identical to Johnson in terms of the method used although Hagin writes in his idiosyncratic Southern style in explaining his view. While Johnson does not provide his reasons as to why Jesus was ‘born again,’ Hagin does:

“Why did He need to be begotten, or born? Because He became like we were, separated from God. Because He tasted spiritual death for every man. His spirit, His inner man, went to hell in our place.”

“…Physical death would not remove our sins….”

Jesus is the first person ever to be born again.” [4] [emphasis added]

“Spiritual death means something more than separation from God. Spiritual death also means having Satan’s nature.” [5][emphasis in original]

Can we conclude that Johnson may believe that Jesus died spiritually as does Hagin? It’s certainly possible; however, absent an explanation from Johnson himself we are still left wondering. There is one important difference between Hagin’s and Johnsons’ renditions, though. Hagin claims Jesus was “not born as He took on flesh” because He “preexisted with the Father” stating that Jesus “just took upon Himself a body.”[6] Then, he makes the definitive claim that Jesus died spiritually on the Cross requiring that He be born again. However, Johnson states that Jesus was “born through Mary the first time” and had to be ‘born again’ because He ‘became sin’ with no further explanation.

Kenneth E. “Papa” Hagin is known as the “Daddy” of the Word of Faith movement. If that’s the case, then E. W. Kenyon is the grandfather since Hagin largely emulates his teachings. Kenyon’s doctrine has much in common with New Thought [7] and that’s because he was a follower of founder Phineas P. Quimby’s teachings. For an excellent expose on Word of Faith read Atonement Where?[8] by Moreno Dal Bello.

Some New Age doctrine seems to come from New Thought ideology:

“The New Thought movement, which originated in the late 19th and early 20th century, has at its core a belief that a higher power pervades all existence, and that individuals can create their own reality via affirmations, meditation and prayer. Early New Thought groups emerged from a Christian Science background, and many New Thought writers refer back to the Bible as their foundation text. New Thought resembles in some respects New Age philosophy, although some… …groups dismiss a connection….” [9]

While Johnson may diverge a bit from Word of Faith teachings, it seems he has much more in common than not with this false doctrine as much of the rest of this article will confirm.

Baptism in Confusion

There was an unanswered point in part I of this article:

… The view of Jesus being God’s Son at or through the Resurrection is only unorthodox if the belief is that Jesus was not the Son of God before this event….

Bill Johnson quoted Matthew 3:17 from the NKJV, “‘This is My much loved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”[10]; so, it would seem that he believes Jesus was the Father’s Son at baptism, if not before. However, the question that remains is if Johnson believes Jesus was divine at any point before baptism. It also seems possible though that Johnson believes Jesus was divine at the Virgin Birth (His Incarnation) even though his claim is that Jesus did not become The Christ until baptism at which point He received this ‘title’ of Christ. As pointed out in part I, this, of course, creates a contradiction within Johnson’s theology as Christ is the transliterated Greek word Christos which is taken from the Hebrew word meaning Messiah of which there can be only one; however, Johnson states we all can receive the same “anointing” as Jesus did. This would mean, in effect, we, too would attain the ‘title’ of Christ – which is tantamount to calling us individual Messiahs!

Passages such as the following from his 2007 book Face To Face With God aid in perpetuating this contradiction:

“…The outpouring of the Spirit comes to anoint the church with the same Christ anointing that rested upon Jesus in His ministry so that we might be imitators of Him.” [11]

Johnson makes it clear that Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist was what is known as the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” and it’s this baptism which provided the ‘power’ of the Holy Spirit which Jesus needed to perform the works of His earthly ministry. And, again, it’s this baptism all believers must receive in order to live a life of miracles, signs and wonders according to Johnson. [12]

Johnson explains this by differentiating between the Holy Spirit indwelling which “comes about at our conversion” and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit which is “upon” the believer.[13] Johnson declares emphatically “He’s in me for my sake, but He’s upon me for yours! ” in affirming the supposed tangible nature of this “anointing.”[14] He uses the Apostles – the real first century ones – as an example claiming Jesus Christ “breathed” the Holy Spirit indwelling into them in John 20:22:

“…In the lives of Christ’s disciples, we see this take place in John 20:22, when Jesus met with them, ‘breathed on them’ and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ But at His ascension [sic], Jesus told these same people that the Holy Spirit was going to come upon them. The Holy Spirit was already in them, but He was going to come upon them with power… ” [15] [emphasis added]

This raises some questions such as: Why didn’t Jesus “breathe” the Holy Spirit in/on them sooner? Given that the 72 were sent out (Luke 10) well before the events recorded in John 20:22 which took place while Jesus was on the earth in his post-resurrection body, why didn’t Jesus have the Holy Spirit indwell them at that time or before? Or did Jesus do this for the 72 and not the eleven (the twelve minus Judas Iscariot)? And, if the 72 weren’t – to use Johnson’s theology – both indwelled with the Holy Spirit and Baptized in the Holy Spirit, how could they have healed the sick and driven out demons?

Johnson states that the Holy Spirit “was already in Jesus’ life” [16] when Jesus received the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” at His Baptism by John. How can this be reconciled with Johnson’s belief that this ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’ could only come after Jesus’ Ascension?[17] Since John’s baptism was one of repentance, how could he provide Jesus a “Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

Scripture shows that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This was an identifying sign that Jesus was the Son of God. This was not an “impartation.” The Apostle John makes this distinction clear:

32 Then John [the Baptist] gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” [John 1:32-34 NIV]

Orthodox Christianity attests that prior to the events of the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 the Holy Spirit indwelling was “selective and temporary.”[18] The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit was not available until after Jesus Christ’s Ascension. While most, if not all, Pentecostal and charismatic denominations believe in a second baptism or “blessing” – known as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit – (also the view is that sometimes these two can occur simultaneously rather than being separate events) many other Christians do not.

Sinless at the Other Side of the Cross

“Jesus Christ was entirely God. He was not a created being, yet He became a man and lived entirely within man’s limitations. His ability to demonstrate power, walk on water, and carry out countless other divine manifestations was completely due to the fact that He was without sin and was totally yielded to the Holy Spirit. He became the model for everyone who would experience the cleansing of sin by the blood of Jesus.

The forgiveness that God gives puts every believer in a place without sin. The only question that remains is how empowered by the Holy Spirit we are willing to be.” [19]

This is worded very poorly and seems to suggest heterodoxy. Johnson can be quite explicit in some passages as he writes; so, it’s curious why he wasn’t more careful with this one. He had already stated that Jesus “laid His divinity aside”[20] and when this statement is added to just the bolded portion in the first paragraph we seem to have a “Jesus” that “became man” (at birth/Incarnation?) and performed supernatural acts “entirely” by yielding to the Holy Spirit’s power. Taking the entire first paragraph as a whole this could lead to the conclusion that during His earthly existence Jesus was not God in human flesh but, rather a man who lived a life powered by the Holy Spirit after Baptism even though He preexisted as God.

The second paragraph of the Johnson quote above creates two problems, especially when viewed in its full context in the whole of both paragraphs. The first is that it can be construed that Jesus could have sinned but did not solely because of submission to the Holy Spirit. Further support for this view comes from this quote from part I: “…He sought to fulfill the assignment given to Him by the Father: to live life as a man without sin…”[21]

Secondly, it can be understood – in fact it seems to state outright – that believers can live a sinless life if they “are willing” to be fully empowered by the Holy Spirit. If this second view is not entirely driven home above, Johnson makes it clear in his words below by claiming believers are now dead to sin and its nature:

“Many believe His power exists only to help us overcome sin. This understanding stops very short of the Father’s intent for us to become witnesses of another world. Doesn’t it seem strange that our whole Christian life should be focused on overcoming something that has already been defeated? Sin and its nature have been yanked out by its roots…”

“…Many in the church are camped on the wrong side of the Cross… …I don’t need power to overcome something [sin] if I’m dead to it” [22] [emphasis added]

The human sin nature does not ever leave us this side of glory since it’s a part of the human condition as a result of the The Fall in the Garden of Eden. It’s a struggle of all humanity – unsaved or saved. The Holy Spirit indwelled believer can choose to be led of the Spirit or to succumb to the sinful nature [cf. Galatians 5:16-26]; but, the believer never lives in a sinless state until the other side of Glory. The Apostle John states it quite succinctly:

“8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” [I John 1:8 NIV]

This is another example of the already but not yet [23] as discussed in both The Kingdom of God is at Hand articles on this blog. The Apostle Paul speaks of the struggle with sin and outlines the process of sanctification in Romans chapters 6, 7, 8 and 12 by a life lived by and through the Spirit. For a good discussion on sanctification see Sanctification – Set Apart.[24]

Kenneth E. Hagin’s view is similar to Johnson’s:

You see, as long as I believe that I receive forgiveness of my sins, and that’s all (not remission, but just forgiveness), then I remain in the position where Satan will dominate me all my life….” [25]

By making the distinction between “forgiveness” and “remission” Hagin seems to be saying that sin will, just like a sickness in remission, be absent from the believer for an indefinite period of time. He also speaks negatively about the Cross while promoting the Resurrection side:

“The Cross is actually a place of defeat, whereas the Resurrection is a place of triumph. When you preach the cross, you’re preaching death, and you leave people in death.” [26]

This negative view of the Cross bears a resemblance to the Theosophic/New Age/occult/esoteric teachings of Alice A. Bailey from a book from 1937:

“The outstanding need of Christianity today is to emphasize the living, risen Christ. We have argued too long over the death of Christ, seeking to impose a narrow sectarian Christ upon the world. We have fed the fires of separation by our Christian divisions, churches, sects and ‘isms.’ ‘Their name is legion,’ and most of them are founded upon some sectarian presentation of the dead Christ, and of the earlier aspects of His story. Let us now unite on the basis of the risen Christ…” [27] [emphasis added]

Notice how Bailey refers to the denominational orthodox Christian view and their focus on “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” [I Corinthians 2:2] as “legion” just like the self-ascribed name of the demons who inhabited the man from the region of the Gerasenes in the account of Mark 5:1-17. While Johnson does not go any where near as far as Bailey does here, he does speak negatively about denominations and “religion” throughout his books; and, at one point he even called our present age the “post-denominational era.” [28]

The question is: why would a New Ager speak positively about any aspect of the Cross? Wouldn’t the New Ager look upon Christianity in general with utter disdain? This question will be answered as we progress through this article and part III. And, why would Johnson and Hagin – purported ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – speak negatively on any aspect of the Cross? Shouldn’t this be the central focus of Christianity as the Apostle Paul stated numerous times?

The Resurrection of the Latter Rain

If there was any doubt, Johnson makes it clear that he adheres to Latter Rain (or New Order of the Latter Rain) doctrine – an aberrant branch of Pentecostalism/charismaticism:

“On the Day of Pentecost, Peter declared that the promise of Joel 2 was fulfilled. …Yet, that day was only the initial fulfillment of the promise – the Spirit was poured out on that day, but there is a day coming in which He will truly be poured out on all flesh….” [29] [bolding from emphasis in original]

The way this is worded it sounds as though Johnson is adhering to universalism – a New Age concept that all will be (or can be) saved.  In a video advertisement for a recent  “Open Heavens” conference (October 13-15, 2010) once again Johnson stresses the word “all”:

 “What does it mean to you when it says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on A-L-L flesh?’ Everywhere I go IS an open heaven. Miracles follow those who believe. Whenever He restores something, he restores it to a place greater than before. I’ve lived without miracles, and I’ve lived with miracles. With miracles is better.” [30]

Continuing with Johnson from the quote above regarding Joel 2:

“…This is a fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit being poured as the early and latter rain. The early rain was the first century, and the latter is now.” [31]

As justification for his position, Johnson uses the water turned to wine at the wedding in Cana and Job’s returned possessions as ‘proof’ that God “saves the best for last” and to disagree with him is “at best pure ignorance or at worst unbelief.”[32] Yet the Assemblies of God – the denomination of which Bill Johnson was formerly a part – denounced Latter Rain as heresy back in 1949.[33]

The Latter Rain movement went underground in the 1950s but emerged again in the 1970s and has gained momentum since then.

Here’s Johnson claiming we can seek to emulate Jesus in His glorified state as described by John in Revelation 1:13-16 by the power of the ‘other side of the Cross:’

“The ‘as He is, so are we’ [1st John 4:17] declaration is far beyond what any of us could have imagined; especially in light of the glorified description of Jesus in Revelation, chapter 1. Yet, the Holy Spirit was sent specifically for this purpose that we might attain… ‘to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’

“The Holy Spirit came with the ultimate assignment at the perfect time. During Jesus’ ministry, it was said, ‘The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’ …why didn’t the Father send Him until Jesus was glorified? Because without Jesus in His glorified state there was no heavenly model of what we were to become! …As He is, so are we in the world.

“The Christian life is not found on the Cross. It is found because of the Cross. It is His resurrection power that energizes the believer…” [34] [bolding from italicized original; underlining added for emphasis]

Johnson speaks more on this “resurrection power” for the believer:

At some point the reality of the resurrection [sic] must come into play in our lives – we must discover the power of the resurrection [sic] for all who believe.

“…we must follow Him all the way – to a lifestyle empowered by the resurrection!” [35] [bolding from italicized original, underlining added for emphasis]

Johnson’s words above are similar to some of Kenyon’s as taught by Hagin. After stating that as representatives of Christ “[w]e are Christ” “not only collectively, but individually” Hagin quotes 1st John 4:17 just as Johnson does above: “As He is, so are we in this world.” Then he poses the question: “when we get to heaven?” [36] to which he answers:

“No! In this world! Glory!” [37]

And, here Hagin quotes Kenyon directly:

“Oh, that our eyes were open; that our souls would dare rise into the realm of Omnipotence… …that we would act up to our high privileges in Christ Jesus.” [38]

“…so far, none of us have been able to take a permanent place in our privileges and abide where we may enjoy the fullness of this mighty power….

“But we have a conviction that before the Lord Jesus returns, there will be a mighty army of believers who will learn the secret of living in the Name, of reigning in life, living the victorious, transcendent, resurrection life of the Son of God among men….” [39]

“If our minds could only grasp… …that Satan is paralyzed… …it would be easy to live in this Resurrection Realm.” [40] [emphasis added]

Manifest Sons of God: The New Breed

This sounds very close to, if not is by definition, Manifest Sons of God (MSoG) doctrine. Known by other names such as Sonship[not to be confused with the orthodox doctrine of the same name], Overcomers, Joel’s Army and New Breed among others, MSoG is part of Latter Rain (or New Order of the Latter Rain) which teaches that certain individuals can obtain their resurrected, glorified bodies, as in 1st Corinthians 15:35-55, in the here and now before the Rapture and/or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Yet, as verses 51 and 52 of 1st Corinthians make clear, all true believers in Jesus Christ will receive resurrection bodies at the same time. This false teaching is largely based on a faulty interpretation of Romans 8:19-23:

19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from the bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. [NIV; emphasis added]

Verses 24 and 25 which follow the above make it clear that this is a future promise; and, as 1st Corinthians 15:50-52 and 1st Thessalonians 4:15-17 attest, the dead in Christ are raised first a nanosecond before the living and all this occurs “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” [NIV] at the same time. No living person precedes another living person and no living person will receive their resurrection body before the dead in Christ receive theirs.

For more on “resurrection power” and “Resurrection Life,” here’s Todd Bentley from August 08, 2008 at Rick Joyner’s Morningstar Ministries speaking of the fourth stage/floor/level he saw in a vision:

“I got up to the fourth floor, the door opened, it was Romans 8, the manifestation of the sons of God, power, dominion, and it was called ‘Resurrection Life.’” [41] [emphasis mine]

Bentley claims that at this point he enquired of God about the difference between raising the dead and “resurrection life.” In his account, God answered explaining that “resurrection life” will result in a coming “corporate anointing” in which people will be raised from the dead just because of “the anointing in the atmosphere.”[42]

“And that’s when I said, ‘God, I’m not focused on raising the dead anymore, I want resurrection life.’

“Do you know raising the dead isn’t something that happens? Raising the dead is a person. Resurrection isn’t something that happens – resurrection is a person. Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection, I am the life.’ Raising the dead is Jesus. When the dead are raised, it’s Jesus. …Resurrection is Jesus, not something that happens.” [43]

Following along with this train of thought leads to the ‘we are Christ, we are Jesus’ similar to Johnson’s ‘Christ anointing.’ Bentley continues:

“God’s going to move the church into such a realm… But, we’re moving into a realm of Romans 8: resurrection life; power; dominion over every sin, sickness, disease, death. …Because everything is the person of Jesus. [ed: panentheism?] And, we are pressing in for that ‘Romans 1:4 anointing.’” [44] [emphasis added]

Bob Jones relates just what this “Romans 1:4 anointing” is:

“What He’s doing now is bringing you to a level of maturity where you grow up. And, if you grow up you’ll never regress, you’ll continue progress year by year. So, what he’s talking about is the New Breed, is this: it’s Romans 1:4 – the spirit of holiness. So, for years I tried to get understanding of what the spirit of holiness is for it’s different than the Holy Spirit…” [45] [emphasis added]

Different than the Holy Spirit?! What ‘spirit’ would THAT be?! Continuing with Bentley:

“Do you know how Jesus was raised from the dead? By the spirit of holiness and declared by the resurrection of the dead…” [46]

Clearly, it was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus Christ’s lifeless human body. However, it’s less clear which kind of spirit Jones and Bentley are speaking about (or, maybe it’s not). Continuing from the above:

“…And, I just believe there’s an impartation to call forth ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ – the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.’” [47]

True Christians already have the Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the dead – the Holy Spirit indwelling – and the “hope of glory” at initial conversion. Why the need for a further ‘impartation?’ These ‘impartations’ seem to have more in common with the occult than Christianity especially as Bentley describes them as “levels” or “stages/floors” which sound eerily like “initiations.”

“And, I want to take one moment church, and I want to press in, I want you to press in with me, to go from one floor, to two floors, to three levels, to four. And, let’s progress and let’s say, ‘God, beyond raising the dead, beyond notable miracles, beyond healing, let there be a release in the Church of the realm of glory and power and dominion and authority that affects everything that’s death and decay around us.’ And, it’s true victory, it’s true resurrection life, true resurrection power, and true resurrection glory

People will be made alive – born again.” [48] [emphasis added]

So, according to Bentley, this “resurrection life” makes one or leads one to be ‘born again?’ Going back to Johnson: The original sermon series from which Bill Johnson makes the ‘born again Jesus’ comments is titled Jesus is Our Model – a theme echoed in his books. So, is he saying essentially the same thing as Bentley; i.e., is Johnson saying that we are to become ‘born again’ and achieve “resurrection life” using Jesus as our model given that – according to Johnson in the transcript – Jesus was “born again through the Resurrection?

While it is possible that Johnson means something a bit different than Bentley, the wording and implications look the same. However, one must take into account the fact that Bill Johnson feels so strongly about Todd Bentley that he defended him during Lakeland[49]. [Here's the corresponding video with him reading an email beginning around the 21:00 mark.] In response to this question: “What do you think of Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Revival” Johnson answers:

“Have you spent time with Todd? Do you know him? …Have you laid hands on him and prayed? Has he laid hands on you and prayed? Have you grieved over tragedy together? Have you celebrated victory together? Has he sought your counsel?…Have you ever received his counsel?

“I didn’t think so. I have. And I’ll continue to support those who I have walked with in life and ministry. He’s my friend…” [50]

Obviously, they had a close relationship not just in their association within ministry but in their personal lives as well. While this still doesn’t definitively prove a connection regarding their respective doctrines, it shows each was likely aware of the other’s. Also, Johnson lists both Todd Bentley’s Fresh Fire USA Ministries as well as Bob Jones as “Friends”[51] on one of his sites. In his book Face to Face With God, Johnson writes on the New Breed himself:

“We are in the throes of change; a reformation will impact society on all fronts. This is happening largely because today there is a new breed of believer.” [52] [emphasis added]

If that’s not convincing enough when added to all the above that Johnson is teaching MSoG, consider this. Todd Bentley was one of the endorsers on at least two of Bill Johnson’s books: When Heaven Invades Earth and The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind.[53] Similarly, Bill Johnson endorsed four[54] of Bentley’s books including Journey into the Miraculous from 2008 in which he writes in his endorsement:

I love this book. …this book is more than a story about his life. It’s a prophetic declaration of God’s intent for an entire generation….” [55][emphasis added]

The Militant Joel’s Army of the Manifested Sons of God

Right in the first chapter titled “The End-Time Healing Revival” of Bentley’s Journey into the Miraculous are some “prophetic words” of Bob Jones, Paul Cain and even Benny Hinn(!); and, on the very first page:

For 20 years, the prophets have foretold about a youthful generation that will rise up… In 1973, the Lord showed Prophet Bob Jones this coming anointing that would fall on God’s people. Bob told me that I was part of the ‘first fruits’ wave of a billion people whom God would light on fire.” [56] [emphasis added]

Then, referring to a quote of Paul Cain in a section titled “JOEL’S ARMY,” Bentley relates:

“…They’d learn patient endurance, how to demonstrate the power of God, and, having learned all, stand against the enemy. As Christian soldiers, they’d have the mind of Christ, and ‘partake of the heavenly calling, and be a new breed, God’s dread champions.’” [57]

This is “Joel’s mighty army” Bentley is speaking of “as described in Joel chapter 2” who are “the army of God – not a wicked army (as some have thought).”[58] However, it should be noted that Biblical scholars generally agree that the army of Joel 2:1-11 refers to both a locust plague and the Assyrian army who chastened the Nation Israel in the 7th and 8th century BC.[59]  And, there is likely a future fulfillment in the ‘Day of the Lord’ identified in Zechariah 14:2 as an evil army (also see Revelation 9:2-9) arrayed against Jerusalem which will be defeated by the Lord Himself (Zech 14:3-4; Rev 19:15).

In the following, Bentley quotes Paul Cain from the Grace City Report Special Prophetic Edition, from Fall 1989:

“‘They are the ones with feet of iron not mixed of clay, with the wisdom of God alone, not imitators of other men of God. Some of the superstars of the church will fall. The Lord will have an army of holy anointed vessels to usher in His Kingdom so that no one man can take credit for it. It will be to the glory of God alone.’” [60]

For those unaware, according to the Latter Rain view, Joel’s Army/Manifested Sons of God will be exacting judgment and penalty unto death if necessary upon those in the Church who do not go along with this “end-times move of the Spirit” as per Rick Joyner’s “vision” in The Final Quest [61] and earlier MorningStar Journals from Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries. This dispensing of “God’s judgment” or “cleansing of evil” was spoken of in Constance Cumbey’s 1985 book A Planned Deception as one of the stated goals of both New Agers and Manifested Sons of God[62]. This “old-order brethren” is referenced in Bentley’s book as spoken of here in the following quote from Paul Cain’s You Can Become the Word! at a 1989 Vineyard Prophetic Conference:

“…God has invited us to have a role in establishing a new order of ChristianityGod is offering to this generation something He has never offered to any other generation…beware lest old-order brethren rob you and steal this hope from you.” [63] [emphasis added]

Oddly, Bentley even quotes Jewel Grewe of Discernment Ministries(!) from one of her Discernment Newsletters in quoting Paul Cain:

“As Paul Cain says, these days will be marked by miracles; ‘All the sick are gonna be healed, the dead are gonna be raised and nations are gonna turn to God in a day.’ (Bob Jones and Paul Cain, Selections from the Kansas City Prophets, audiotape from discernment newsletter).” [64] [all as per original except bolding/underlining for emphasis]

Since Bill Johnson endorsed Bentley’s Journey into the Supernatural and claims that he “loves this book,” it’s fair to say he agrees with Bentley’s views regarding Joel’s Army as stated in the quotes above. Then, by extension, perhaps Johnson agrees with Todd Bentley’s and Bob Jones’ words from the 08/08/08 DVD as referenced above as well especially since Johnson has already identified with the New Breed which is another name for Joel’s Army or Manifest Sons of God.

A New Age Christ?

Here’s Johnson teaching more MSoG in a You Tube video:

“…It’s the Spirit of God that makes this thing [the Bible, which he’s holding] come alive to where we actually have the privilege of the Word becoming flesh in us again, where we become the living illustration and manifestation of what God is saying.” [65] [emphasis mine]

The bolded portion above is reminiscent of what is known as “birthing the man-child”[66] – yet another euphemism for the purported Manifested Sons of God. Also, it needs to be noted that this bolded portion sounds like it relates to the title of the piece from the Vineyard Prophetic Conference of Paul Cain mentioned above: You Can Become the Word! In addition, the above quote sounds quite a bit like some words by the late Earl Paulk from his 1985 book Held in the Heavens Until…:

The living Word of God, Jesus Christ, was conceived in the womb of a virgin. The Word became flesh in the God man, Jesus Christ… Likewise, the Word of God must be made flesh in the Church in order for us to bear witness to the Kingdom which God has called us to demonstrate” [67] [emphasis added]

“…Natural conception and birth graphically symbolize God’s offspring in His Church. The Church is the womb of God’s Kingdom. God wants to quicken His Word, to bring it alive in us, causing us to live by His Word, not by sight or natural understanding.” [68] [emphasis added]

All things have been given to us, even to the point of allowing us to share the divine nature of Jesus. Sharing His nature is a definition of the ongoing incarnation of God on the earth. ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory.’ His inheritance is already ours.” [69][emphasis added]

Taken together, these quotes seem quite similar to the New Age view of bringing in the “Kingdom of God” as mentioned in the “New Age Kingdom” section of The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part II article on this blog.

By quoting “Christ in us, the hope of glory” as Paulk and Bentley both do, the implication in their respective contexts above seems to infer our own divinity. This sounds eerily similar to the New Age/Theosophic/esoteric/occult teachings of Alice A. Bailey working as a medium for one of the “Masters of Wisdom” identified as “Master DK” or “Djwhal Khul” from her 1948 book The Reappearance of the Christ:

“…Inherent in the human consciousness… …is a sense of divinity. …‘As He is, so are we in this world.’ (1 John IV:17) is another Biblical statement. …‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’ is the triumphant affirmation of St. Paul.” [70]

Of course, both Johnson and Hagin quote 1st John 4:17 above in the “Resurrection of the Latter Rain” section. Restating part of Johnson’s quote:

“The ‘as He is, so are we’ [1st John 4:17] declaration is far beyond what any of us could have imagined; especially in light of the glorified description of Jesus in Revelation, chapter 1. Yet, the Holy Spirit was sent specifically for this purpose that we might attain… ‘to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.’

“…why didn’t the Father send Him [the Holy Spirit] until Jesus was glorified? Because without Jesus in His glorified state there was no heavenly model of what we were to become! …As He is, so are we in the world.

“The Christian life is not found on the Cross. It is found because of the Cross. It is His resurrection power that energizes the believer…” [71] [bolding from italicized original; bold/underlining added for emphasis]

This focus on the “Resurrection side of the Cross” at the expense of the Cross itself as Johnson, Hagin, Bentley and others do above, as evidenced by quotes in this article, is yet another aspect of the New Age religion as referenced in the “Sinless at the Other Side of Cross” section above. Quoting Bailey again in The Destiny of the Nations from 1949:

“In the Aquarian Age, the Risen Christ… …will not this time demonstrate the perfected life of the Son of God, which was his main mission before; He will appear as the supreme Head of the Spiritual Hierarchy, meeting the need of the thirsty nations of the world – thirsty for truth, for right human relations and for loving understanding. He will be recognized this time by all and in His Own Person will testify to the fact of the resurrection and hence demonstrate the paralleling fact of immortality of the soul, of the spiritual man. The emphasis during the past two thousand years has been on death; it has coloured all the teaching of the orthodox; only one day in the year has been dedicated to the thought of the resurrection. The emphasis in the Aquarian Age will be on life and freedom from the tomb of matter, and this is the note which will distinguish the new world religion from all that have preceded it.” [72]

This “death” emphasized over “the past two thousand years” is the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The “paralleling fact of immortality of the soul” is the ‘fact’ of “inherent divinity.” This “Spiritual Hierarchy” is also known as the “Masters of Wisdom” who are, in reality, demons. Their “Risen Christ” is actually referring to the coming antichrist.

Are Bill Johnson and company teaching and preaching a New Age Christ whether unwittingly or wittingly?

Endnotes:

[1] “ewenhuffman” Jesus is our Model- Sermon of the week 20 Dec 09. <http://ewenhuffman.podbean.com/2009/12/23/jesus-is-our-model-sermon-of-the-week-20-dec-09/> 33:48 to 34:57; as accessed 11/08/10
[2] Hagin, Kenneth E. The Name of Jesus. 1979, 3rd printing 1981; Rhema Bible Church aka Kenneth Hagin Ministries / Faith Library, Tulsa, OK; p 28
[3] ibid.
[4] ibid. p 29
[5] ibid. p 31
[6] ibid. p28
[7] Affiliated New Thought Network The Philosophy of New Thought. <http://www.newthought.org/new_thought.html>; as accessed 11/08/10
[8] THE WORD on the The Word of Faith (a GroupBlog) Atonement Where? By Moreno Dal Bello <http://thewordonthewordoffaithinfoblog.com/2010/10/15/atonement-where-1-mdbello/>; as accessed 11/08/10
[9] Hare, John Bruno / Internet Sacred Text Archive New Thought. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/nth/index.htm>; as accessed 11/08/10
[10] Johnson, Bill When Heaven Invades Earth. 2003; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 99
[11] Johnson, Bill Face to Face with God. 2007; Charisma House, Lake Mary, FL; p 77
[12] ibid. p 99-102
[13] ibid. p 78
[14] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 134
[15] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 78
[16] ibid. p 21-22
[17] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 145
[18] Got Questions? What Was the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament? <http://www.gotquestions.org/Spirit-Old-Testament.html>; par 4; as accessed 11/08/10
[19] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 199
[20] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 79
[21] ibid.
[22] ibid. p 110
[23] Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stewart How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. second edition, 1993; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 133-134
[24] AllaboutGOD.com / All About Following Jesus Sanctification – Set Apart. <http://www.allaboutfollowingjesus.org/sanctification.htm>; as accessed 11/08/10
[25] Hagin, Op.cit. p 55
[26] Hagin, Kenneth E. The Believer’s Authority. 1986, 2nd ed.; Rhema Bible Church aka Kenneth Hagin Ministries / Faith Library; Tulsa, OK; p 16
[27] Bailey, Alice A. From Bethlehem to Calvary. Copyright 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis Trust, 4th paperback edition, 1989; Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; pp 238-239
[28] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 90
[29] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 76
[30] ibethelTV Open Heavens 2010. < http://vimeo.com/15808994 > as accessed 03/26/11
[31] ibid. pp 76-77
[32] ibid. p 77
[33] Wikipedia The General Council of the Assemblies of God in the United States of America. “Relations with other denominations and renewal movements” <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Council_of_the_Assemblies_of_God_in_the_United_States_of_America>; as accessed 11/08/10
[34] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 145
[35] ibid. p 146
[36] Hagin, Op.cit. The Name of Jesus. pp 106-107
[37] ibid. p 107
[38] ibid. p 49
[39] ibid. p 52
[40] ibid. p 53
[41] Bentley, Todd Todd Bentley Healing and Impartation Service 08-08-08. DVD; available at MorningStar Ministries Store <http://www.morningstarministries.org/Store/Products/1000013034/MorningStar_Store/Media_Store/Teaching_Sets/All_Teaching_Sets/DVD_Teaching_Sets/Todd_Bentley_Healing.aspx>; 1953:26 – 1953:37
[42] ibid. 1953:37 – 1954:44
[43] ibid. 1955:18 – 1956:00
[44] ibid. 1956:00 – 1956:38
[45] ibid. 1934:39 – 1935:10 (Bob Jones speaking)
[46] ibid. 1956:38 – 1956:46
[47] ibid. 1956:46 – 1957:00
[48] ibid. 1956:58 – 1957:53
[49] Bill Johnson Ministries, Questions and Answers. “UPDATE: What do you think about Todd Bentley and the Lakeland Revival? June ‘08” <http://www.bjm.org/questions/11/update-what-do-you-think-about-todd-bentley-and-the-lakeland-revival.html?file=regarding-todd-bentley>; as accessed 11/08/10
[50] ibid.
[51] Bill Johnson Ministries, Friends. <http://www.bjm.org/friends.html>
[52] Johnson, Op.cit. Face to Face with God. p 139
[53] Both books from Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., copyright 2003 and 2005 respectively
[54] Journey into the Miraculous, Sound of Fire Productions, Ltd.; 2003 / Journey into the Miraculous, Destiny Image; January 1, 2008 / “Endorsements” ; The Reality of the Supernatural World, Destiny Image; June 1, 2008; “Endorsements” / Kingdom Rising, Destiny Image; October 1, 2008: pp 15-17
[55] Bentley, Todd Journey into the Miraculous. 2008; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; “Endorsements”
[56] ibid. pp 21-22
[57] ibid. pp 22-23
[58] ibid. p 23
[59] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “Joel.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1985; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 245-250. with contribution by Richard D. Patterson
[60] Bentley, Op.cit. p 23
[61] Joyner, Rick The Final Quest. 1996, 2nd ed.; MorningStar Publications, Charlotte, NC; pp 36-38
[62] Cumbey, Constance A Planned Deception. 1985; Pointe Publishers, East Detroit, MI; p 172
[63] Bentley, Op.cit. pp 24-25
[64] ibid. p 25
[65] “whizzpopping” You Tube video, Bill Johnson – Friendship with God. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4RZ_ctiwlE&gt>; 1:24 – 1:37; as accessed 11/08/10
[66] Booth, Tricia (formerly Tillin), The Birthpangs of a New Age. “The Birth of the Manchild” <http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/latterrain/manchild.html>; as accessed 11/08/10
[67] Paulk, Earl, Held in the Heavens Until…. 1985; K Dimension, Atlanta, GA; p 156
[68] ibid.
[69] ibid. p 197
[70] Bailey, Alice A. The Reappearance of the Christ. 1948, Lucis Trust, 9th printing 1979 (4th Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY; p 145
[71] Johnson, Op.cit. When Heaven Invades Earth. p 145
[72] Bailey, Alice A. The Destiny of the Nations. 1949, Lucis Trust, 5th printing 1974 (2nd Paperback ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY; pp 150-151

The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part I

[see part II here.]

Jesus Himself stated, “The kingdom of God is at hand” in Mark 1:15 [NIV]; however, it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew that He also said “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 4:17, 10:7 NIV] A quick examination of Scripture leads to the conclusion that the phrases “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” are synonymous. So, is the kingdom of God NOW?

Most first century Jews, according to their understanding of Scripture, were looking for a Messiah who would provide theocratic rule thus delivering them from Roman oppression and immediately establishing the Kingdom of God – the Age to Come. The then-current age – “Satan’s Time” – was one of sin, sickness, demonic possession, and evil in which evil men were triumphant.[1]

Consequently, even though Jesus Christ healed the sick, drove out demons and even claimed to have forgiven sins, the majority of religious leaders did not recognize Him as the Messiah in part because He did not try to overthrow Rome. Since many of the Pharisees – one of the religious parties of the day – did not believe Jesus’ claim as the “I Am” [John 8:58] they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy!

Historical background

Writings of the Intertestamental Era

400 years had already elapsed between the writing of Malachi, the last Old Testament book to be recorded, and the era of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In the intertestamental period (the time between the Old and New Testaments), the Jews were not a free people most of the time instead subjected to the rulership of various empires. There were no prophets providing correction or guidance; and, consequently, it was a rather unhappy time. As a result, it was a period marked by a surge in the production of literary works, the most important of which were the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Tanakh – what Christians know as the Old Testament (abbreviated LXX)[2], the Apocryphal & Pseudepigraphic writings (some of the Apocrypha were translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic and included as part of the LXX)[3], and the Dead Sea Scrolls.[4]

The word Apocrypha, from Greek derivation, means “hidden” which has a view of the works being either esoteric and only to be understood by the initiated or, “hidden” in that the nature of the writings are questionable or heretical[5]. The term Pseudepigrapha is usually applied to Jewish (and Jewish-Christian) writings from 200BC to AD200 and comes also from Greek etymology meaning the writings were attributed to fictitious authors[6] although some have authorship ascribed[7]. From both groups of works the subject of eschatology has a significant role. Taken all together, this literature appeared to have a profound effect on the pre-Christian and the immediate post-Resurrection era[8] up through the destruction of the Second Temple in AD70[9]. [Note: for the purposes of this article the “New Testament Apocrypha” including the so-called “Lost Gospels, ” Acts of Andrews, Epistles of the Apostles, etc. are not considered.]

…These and other writings emerged during the long silence that fell between the death of the last OT prophet, Malachi (about 400 B.C.), and the appearance of John the Baptist. To some extent these writings attempted to discern what God was saying to a nation that, though it had repudiated idolatry, still suffered under the dominion of a succession of pagan powers… [10]

At the Council of Jamnia in AD90 Jewish rabbis rejected the Apocrypha (of which parts were included in the Septuagint) as canonical[11]. Yet, some of the Apocrypha are included in the Catholic New American Bible as Deuterocanonical (meaning later added to the canon) books[12]. Some of the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine such as purgatory, masses for the dead, and obtaining the merit of God through good works come from these Apocryphal works[13].

The OT canon accepted by Protestants today was “very likely established by the dawn of the second century,” some time after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in AD70. However, the Apocrypha was still in common use by most Christians until the Protestant Reformation[14].

Societal Developments of the Period

Even though the Second Temple was in operation from 516 BC[15] until AD70[16,17] geographical constraints and oppressive regimes prevented easy travel for the typical Jew. Thus the synagogue was born. Synagogues can be likened to our modern day church buildings as they provided a convenient way to gather socially and to worship. Jesus Himself visited local synagogues [Luke 4:14-21; Matthew 12:9; Mark 1:21]; and, the Apostles [Acts 9:20, 13:5-43] and early Christian missionaries preached in them as well[18].

The Sanhedrin was a committee of Jews with recognized executive, legislative, and judicial power over Jewish faith and lifestyle during the Seleucid Empire (196 – 167BC), the Maccabean revolt (168 – 143BC) and within the limits imposed by Julius Caesar, Herod the Great, and Roman procurators during the Roman Empire (44BC – AD66).[19,20] Subordinate to the Sanhedrin were the religious parties or sects known as the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and the Qumran community[21]. Since the Sanhedrin had authority over these sects and ultimate authority over capital cases (yet subordinate to Rome during Roman occupation), Jesus’ trial is seen as being conducted illegally[22].

Beliefs of the Sects

Not much is known about the separative and isolationistic Essene group except that they were very legalistic living both frugally and communally while limiting contact outside their sect. While they did not condemn marriage in principle it was avoided and celibacy was celebrated. Their sect was continued on by the adoption of children. There was an expectation of an impending apocalyptic battle between good and evil. Evidence of a soon to emerge Messiah is in their writings also[23].

Even less was known of the Qumran community until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) which were first unearthed in 1947. The Qumranians are likely a sect that broke from the Essenes. This extremely sectarian group rejected the Jewish leadership referring to them as “sons of darkness” and “men of the pit” while referring to themselves as “sons of light” and “sons of truth.” They firmly believed they were living in the end times[24].

From the DSS it is evident that the Qumranians were highly legalistic with a commitment to study the Torah. The Qumran group believed they were living in the end times and accepted the guidance of a certain teacher of righteousness [ed: probably based at least in part on Malachi 4:5] who was presumably preparing them for the Messiah. Their own writings about this “righteous teacher” are too sketchy to determine the exact role of this figure; however, it is apparent that the community accepted his interpretations of the prophetic OT books regarding eschatology. Since the Qumran believed in a resurrection of the dead, it may be assumed in studying portions of the DSS that they expected the “teacher of righteousness to be martyred and eventually raised up[25]. Their Messiah figure, on the other hand, was more of a human son of David concept rather than a divine apocalyptic Son of man[26]. Some scholars construe that the Qumran belief system supports two or three Messianic figures[27,28].

As supernaturalists, the Pharisees believed in angels, demons, bodily resurrection [Acts 23:8], and immortality with reward for the righteous dead[29] in contrast with retribution for the unrighteous[30]. They were legalistic to the point of going beyond the Scriptures in attempting to adhere to the Torah; and, to this end added their own oral tradition to keep various points of the law. A good example of this is their view of the Sabbath [Mark 2:23-28]. The Pharisees “neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness” [Matthew 23:23 NIV] creating a more works-based religion than one with a personal God.

The Pharisees believed both in man’s free will and the sovereignty of God yet thought neither would cancel out the other. Ethics such as human equality were emphasized in their teachings but not necessarily from a theological standpoint[31]. They expected the Messiah to restore Jewish freedom[32].

One credible source stated outright that the Pharisees believed in reincarnation[33]; yet, the general consensus among Christian scholars is that Pharisaical belief regarding immortality adhered to orthodoxy instead. However, in the Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphic literature there are references to reincarnation[34]. In some camps, the Kabbalah was thought to be in use as early as the time of Moses as part of an oral tradition and reincarnation is one of the tenets of Kabbalistic doctrine[35]. While there are certainly some Jewish sects who currently espouse reincarnation[36], it is not clear when this doctrine first came about. The Apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus, or Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach[37], contains a warning against such esotericism [Sirach 3:20-22].[38]

The common people were predominantly middle class and identified mostly with the Pharisees in part because this party was of the same class[39]. It should be noted that not all Pharisees were of the same ilk as those represented in the NT. Some contemporaries within their own party recognized their hypocrisy and rebuked them for it[40]. Gamaliel appeared to try to honor a personal God with his words [Acts 5:33-41]. Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, would, of course, become the Apostle Paul.

The Sadducees, more than any of these groups, had an interest in Temple ceremonies and sought a literal interpretation of the Torah. They appeared to reject extra-canonical sources for doctrine. As the most affluent of the religious groups, the Sadducees wielded political clout disproportionate to their relative size[41]. It is assumed that they held a large percentage of seats on the Sanhedrin.

The Sadducean view of eschatology was quite simplistic and widely divergent from the other sects as they did not believe in a resurrection [Matthew 22:23, Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27] or an afterlife and even denied the existence of a spiritual world altogether [Acts 23:8] attributing everything to free will[42].

Eschatological Views of the Pre-Christian and Immediate Post-Resurrection Era

With the exception of the Sadducean view, the predominant Jewish belief of the pre-Christian era included the imminent arrival of a Messianic figure (or figures assuming one of the viewpoints regarding the Qumran group) to deliver them from their Roman oppressors and immediately establish the Kingdom of God. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stewart, in their book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, describe the Jewish eschaton (view of the end of time) as the belief that the Messiah’s coming would usher in the “Age to Come” to be “characterized by the presence of the Spirit, righteousness, health, and peace.”[43]

Since Jesus Christ’s disciples/followers came directly from Jewish heritage or were familiar with Jewish eschatological beliefs, they were also expecting Him to soon usher in the Kingdom and overthrow Rome[44] while He was still on the earth. Consequently, Jesus’ arrest and subsequent death on the Cross was met with immense disillusionment among His disciples in part because of this assumption [Luke 22:61-62; 23:27, 48-49; 24:17-21]. However, their sorrow turned to joy with His Resurrection and Ascension!

Yet it was apparent that the end of the age had not come in full:

“Very early, beginning with Peter’s sermon in Acts 3, the early Christians came to realize that Jesus had not come to usher in the ‘final’ end, but the ‘beginning’ of the end, as it were. Thus they came to see that with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and with the coming of the Spirit, the blessings and benefits of the future had already come. In a sense, therefore, the end had already come. But, in another sense the end had not yet fully come. Thus it was already but not yet. [45] [emphasis in original]

First century Christians had to adjust their eschatological thinking to fit the events of the Resurrection and Ascension. However, apparently some were expecting the imminent return of Jesus Christ prompting the Apostle Paul to write the two Thessalonian letters to provide markers of what first must take place before His return. They still had a “kingdom now” mindset. This expectation of imminency with regard to Christ’s return continues in the mindset of most Christians today.

This “tension” between the already but not yet is an important hermeneutical tool in interpreting the New Testament[46]. Passages such as Colossians 3:1-2 illustrate this quite well:

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. [NIV]

We are already raised up with Christ, yet we are still physically here on earth. However, since we have the future expectation of being raised with Christ, we are to already set our hearts and minds on heavenly things. Similarly, when Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand” He was using this same principle. The Kingdom era has already begun; but, the consummation is yet to be fulfilled.

There are those today who are attempting to hasten Jesus Christ’s return by taking the not yet into their own hands. It is the doctrines of some of these which will be compared to the doctrines of the groups above in the second part of this article.

See Part II here.

Endnotes:

[1] Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stewart “The Gospels: One Story, Many Dimensions.” How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. second edition, 1993; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; p 131

[2] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1. 1979; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 164-174. This section features Bruce M. Metzger as contributor.

[3] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “Between the Testaments.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1. 1979; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 179-192. This section features Harold W. Hoehner as contributor.

[4] Barker, Kenneth; Burdick, Stek, et. al. “The Time between the Testaments” NIV Study Bible. copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 1424-1425

[5] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 161 Metzger

[6] ibid. pp 162, 170

[7] Marshall, I. Howard; Millard, Packer “Pseudepigrapha” New Bible Dictionary. third edition, 1996; Intervarsity, Downers Grove, IL; p 985

[8] Gaebelein, Op.cit. pp 173-174 Hoehner

[9] Richards, Lawrence O. “Apocrypha” Richards Complete Bible Dictionary. 2002; World Bible Publishers, Iowa Falls, IO; p 76

[10] ibid.

[11] Marshall, Op.cit.

[12] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 162

[13] Richards, Op.cit.

[14] Barker, Op.cit. p 1425

[15] Richards, Lawrence O. “Ezra” Richards’ Complete Bible Handbook. 1987; Word, Inc., Dallas, TX; pp 233-234

[16] Wikipedia The Second Temple <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Temple> para 1; as accessed 10/17/10

[17] Richards, Op.cit. “The Second Temple” Bible Dictionary p 967

[18] ibid. “synagogue” pp 957-958

[19] ibid. “Sanhedrin” pp 894-895

[20] Gaebelein, Op.cit. pp 184, 189-191 Hoehner

[21] ibid. pp 192-193

[22] Richards, Op.cit. p 895

[23] ibid. “Essenes” pp 346-347

[24] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “Dead Sea Scrolls.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1. 1979; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 395-398. This section features William Sanford LaSor as contributor.

[25] ibid. pp 399-401

[26] ibid. pp 400-403 [The bulk of this information on the Qumran is from the work of William S. LaSor titled The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972]

[27] Barker, Op.cit. p 1427

[28] Hanson, Kenneth “The Wicked Priest” Dead Sea Scrolls: the Untold Story. 1997; Council Oaks Books, Tulsa, OK; p 82

[29] Richards, Op.cit. “Pharisees” p 782

[30] Barker, Op.cit. “Jewish Sects” p 1473

[31] ibid.

[32] Richards, Op.cit.

[33] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 192 Hoehner

[34] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 165 Metzger

[35] Wikipedia “Primary Texts” Kabbalah. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabbalah> para 2, also “History: Origin of Terms” para 1; as accessed 10/17/10

[36] Rich, Tracey R. “Resurrection and Reincarnation” Olam Ha-Ba: The Afterlife. <http://www.jewfaq.org/olamhaba.htm>  Copyright 5759-5760 (1999); Tracey R. Rich; para 4; as accessed 10/17/10

[37] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 166

[38] Confraternity of Christian Doctrine “Sirach” New American Bible. <http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/sirach/sirach3.htm> 2002; Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC; Sirach 3:20-22; as accessed 10/17/10

[39] Richards, Op.cit. “The Common People” Bible Handbook p 443

[40] ibid. “The Pharisees” p 442

[41] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 192 Hoehner

[42] Richards, Op.cit. “Sadducees” p 885

[43] Fee, Op.cit. p 132

[44] ibid.

[45] ibid. pp 132-133

[46] ibid. p 133

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